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For leaders: a model for making the best decisions

In this article, we explore a seven-step approach to improving the quality of your decision-making and increasing your chances of a successful outcome.

Some decisions are so simple that you hardly even realize you're making them, while others are time-consuming, high-risk, and anxiety-inducing. In this article, we explore a seven-step approach to improving the quality of your decision-making and increasing your chances of a successful outcome.

A 7-step decision-making strategy
To avoid making a bad decision, you need to combine a number of decision-making skills into a logical process. Mind Tools recommends the following seven steps:

  • Investigate the situation thoroughly
    Create a constructive environment
    Create good alternatives
    Explore your options
    Choose the best solution
    Evaluate your plan
    Communicate your decision and take action

Step 1: Investigate the situation thoroughly
Decisions often fail because key factors are missed or ignored from the start. So, before you start making a decision, you need to fully understand your situation. Begin by considering the decision in the context of the problem it is intended to solve. You need to determine if the problem listed is a real problem or just a symptom of something deeper. Look beyond the obvious. Perhaps your goal can be approached in isolation, but more likely there are a number of interrelated factors to consider. Changes made in one department, for example, could have negative effects elsewhere, making the change counterproductive.

Step 2: Create a constructive environment for your decision
Can you give your decision the attention it needs? Spend some time preparing before diving into the facts and figures. Remember that most decisions will affect other people, so it helps to create a constructive environment where you can explore the situation together and get support. This is especially important when you have to rely on other people to implement a decision for which you are responsible. Allow people to contribute to discussions without any fear that other participants will reject them and their ideas. Make sure everyone recognizes that the goal is to make the best decision possible under the circumstances, without guilt.

Step 3: Create good decision alternatives
The wider the options you explore, the better your final decision is likely to be. At first, generating a range of different options may seem to make your decision more complicated, but the act of coming up with alternatives forces you to dig deeper and look at the problem from different angles.

Then it can be helpful to apply different creative thinking techniques. This can help you break out of your usual thinking patterns and come up with some truly innovative solutions. Brainstorming is probably the most popular method of generating ideas.

Step 4: Explore your options
Almost every decision involves some degree of risk. You'll need a structured approach to assessing threats and assessing the likelihood of adverse events occurring – and how much it might cost to manage them. You'll also want to examine the ethical impact of each option and how it might align with your personal and organizational values.

Step 5: Choose the best solution
After evaluating the alternatives, the next step is to make a decision! If you have different criteria to consider, use decision matrix analysis to reliably and rigorously compare them. Or, if you want to determine which should carry the most weight in your decision, conduct a pairwise comparison analysis.

Step 6: Evaluate your plan
Before you start implementing your decision, take a long, dispassionate look at it to make sure you've been thorough and that common mistakes haven't crept into the process. Your final decision is only as good as the facts and research you used to make it. Make sure your information is credible and that you've done your best not to "give away" information. This will help you avoid confirmation bias, a common psychological bias in decision making.

Step 7: State your decision and take action
Once you've made your decision, you need to communicate it to everyone it affects in an engaging, informative and inspiring way. Involve them in implementing the solution by discussing how and why you came to your decision. The more information you provide about the risks and anticipated benefits, the more likely people will support them. If people point out a flaw in your process as a result, be humble enough to welcome their input and revise your plans accordingly


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