The Framework to Making Better Decisions in Your Life
1. Listing Possible Solutions/Options
To come up with a list of all the possible solutions and/or options available it is usually appropriate to use a group (or individual) problem-solving process. This process could include brainstorming or some other ‘idea-generating’ process. This stage is important to the overall decision making processes as a decision will be made from a selection of fixed choices. Always remember to consider the possibility of not making a decision or doing nothing and be aware that both options are actually potential solutions in themselves.
2. Setting a Time Scale and Deciding Who is Responsible for the Decision
In deciding how much time to make available for the decision-making process, it helps to consider the following:
- How much time is available to spend on this decision?
- Is there a deadline for making a decision and what are the consequences of missing this deadline?
- Is there an advantage in making a quick decision?
- How important is it to make a decision? How important is it that the decision is right?
- Will spending more time improve the quality of the decision?
Responsibility for the Decision
Before making a decision, you need to be clear who is going to take responsibility for it.
Remember that it is not always those making the decision who have to assume responsibility for it. Is it an individual, a group or an organisation? This is a key question because the degree to which responsibility for a decision is shared can greatly influence how much risk people are willing to take.
3. Information Gathering
Before making a decision, all relevant information needs to be gathered.
If there is inadequate or out-dated information then it is more likely that a wrong decision might be made. If there is a lot of irrelevant information, the decision will be difficult to make, and it will be easier to become distracted by unnecessary factors.
You therefore need up-to-date, accurate information on which to make decisions.
However, the amount of time spent on information-gathering has to be weighed against how much you are willing to risk making the wrong decision. In a group situation, such as at work, it may be appropriate for different people to research different aspects of the information required. For example, different people might be allocated to concentrate their research on costs, facilities, availability, and so on.
5. Deciding on Values
Everybody has their own unique set of values: what they believe to be important. The decisions that you make will, ultimately, be based on your values. That means that the decision that is right for you may not be right for someone else. If the responsibility for a decision is shared, it is therefore possible that one person might not have the same values as the others. In such cases, it is important to obtain a consensus as to which values are to be given the most weight. It is important that the values on which a decision is made are understood because they will have a strong influence on the final choice.
6. Making the Decision
Finally, it’s time to actually make the decision!
Your information-gathering should have provided sufficient data on which to base a decision, and you now know the advantages and disadvantages of each option. It is, as the television programme Opportunity Knocks had it, ‘Make Your Mind Up Time’.
If possible, it is best to allow time to reflect on a decision once it has been reached. It is preferable to sleep on it before announcing it to others. Once a decision is made public, it is very difficult to change.
For important decisions it is worth always keeping a record of the steps you followed in the decision-making process. That way, if you are ever criticised for making a bad decision you can justify your thoughts based on the information and processes you used at the time. Furthermore, by keeping a record and engaging with the decision-making process, you will be strengthening your understanding of how it works, which can make future decisions easier to manage.
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