There are processes and techniques to improve decision making and the quality of decisions. Decision making is more natural to certain personalities, so these people should focus more on improving the quality of their decisions. People that are less natural decision-makers are often able to make quality assessments, but then need to be more decisive in acting upon the assessments made. Problem-solving and decision making are closely linked, and each requires creativity in identifying and developing options, for which the brainstorming technique is particularly useful.
- Define and clarify the issue – does it warrant action? If so, now? Is the matter urgent, important or both? Gather all the facts and understand their causes.
- Think about or brainstorm possible options and solutions.
- Consider and compare the ‘pros and cons’ of each option – consult others if necessary or useful – and for bigger complex decisions where there are several options, create a template that enables measurements according to different strategic factors (see SWOT, PEST, Porter).
- Select the best option – avoid vagueness and weak compromises in trying to please everyone.
- Explain your decision to those involved and affected, and follow up to ensure proper and effective implementation.
‘Pros and Cons’ and ‘Weighted’ Decision-Making Methods
A simple process for decision making is to compile a ‘weighted’ score of ‘pros and cons’ list.
For more complex decisions, several options can be assessed against differing significant criteria, or against a single set of important factors. In any case, factors/options can be weighted and scored appropriately. First, you will need a separate sheet for each identified option.
On each sheet write clearly the option concerned, and then beneath it the headings ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ (or ‘advantages’ and disadvantages’, or simply ‘for’ and ‘against’). Many decisions simply involve the choice of whether to go ahead or not, to change or not; in these cases you need only one sheet.
Then write down as many effects and implications of the particular option that you (and others if appropriate) can think of, placing each in the relevant column.
If helpful, ‘weight’ each factor, by giving it a score out of three or five points (e.g., 5 being extremely significant, and 1 being of minor significance). When you have listed all the points you can think of for the option concerned, compare the number or total score of the items/effects/factors between the two columns.
This will provide a reflection and indication as to the overall attractiveness and benefit of the option concerned. If you have scored each item you will actually be able to arrive at a total score, being the difference between the pros and cons column totals. The bigger the difference between the total pros and total cons then the more attractive the option is.
If you have a number of options and have completed a pros and cons sheet for each option, compare the attractiveness – points difference between pros and cons – for each option. The biggest positive difference between pros and cons is the most attractive option.
If you don’t like the answer that the decision-making sheet(s) reflect back to you, it means you haven’t included all the cons – especially the emotional ones, or you haven’t scored the factors consistently, so re-visit the sheet(s) concerned.
You will find that writing things down in this way will help you to see things more clearly, become more objective and detached, which will help you to make clearer decisions.