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Good Decision Makers are Successful People
They enjoy the feeling of self-confidence that comes from knowing how to make wise choices consistently. You can develop your decision-making skills. With practice, you can improve your ability to make sound decisions in all areas of your life – personal, financial and professional – because life involves many decisions and making the best choices consistently is the key to success.
Your ability to make sound decisions can help you:
- ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS, at work and in your personal life.
- AVOID MISTAKES that can cost you or your organization time and money!
Anatomy of a Decision Making a good decision requires patience and careful thought. Following a step-by-step approach can help.
|Step 1: Define the Problem.|
Size up the situation.
- Examine the problem thoroughly – look at it from all angles.
- Keep thinking – don’t be satisfied with quick, easy answers.
- Avoid mistaking the problem’s symptoms (for example, a shortage of money) for the problem itself (poor spending habits, too much debt, etc.).
Set goals and priorities. Ask yourself:
- “What do I want to achieve by making this decision – what are my goals?”
- “Which of these goals must I meet in order to solve this problem – what are my priorities?” Write down your goals and priorities; review them often.
Try to put your goals in measurable terms (time, money, etc.) so you can measure your success later on.
|Step 2: Reevaluate the Situation. (step 1 may have changed your view of the problem!)|
Consider your options. Once you’ve identified the problem, ask yourself:
- “Do I need to take action in order to achieve my goals and priorities?”
- “Will this problem solve itself with time?”
Don’t make unnecessary decisions. Be aware that the best decision may be to do nothing for the time being. But don’t delay just to avoid making a tough or unpleasant decision.
Be honest with yourself! If you decide that action is needed, proceed to step 3.
|Step 3: Gather Information. In order to solve a problem, you should make yourself an “expert” on the subject.|
Use your time wisely. If a decision is not immediately necessary, use your time to gather information. (Be sure you leave enough time to act on your decision, though.)
Seek advice. Get help from people who know more about the details of the problem. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something.
Use all resources. Use the library, employee records, any source of facts on the problem.
|Step 4: Think of Alternatives. At this stage of the decision-making process, any idea is a good idea.|
|Be open. Don’t limit yourself to ideas that sound “reasonable.” Try “brainstorming” (listing anything and everything that comes to mind). Don’t judge. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Gather all your ideas before considering your alternatives. Record your ideas. Put all your thoughts on paper, so you can evaluate them later.|
|Step 5: Choose an Alternative. Test each alternative carefully, to see how it measures up against the others.|
Think ahead. Try to imagine the consequences of each alternative. Ask yourself, “What will happen if…?” Be thorough, and give each plan a chance.
Be practical. Make sure your plans can be carried out. For example, does your organization have the equipment to make the changes you have in mind? Is the solution more expensive than the problem?
Be creative. If necessary, combine the best features of several different ideas. Make a new alternative – one that works!
Choose the alternative that will best achieve the goals and priorities you identified in step 1.
|Step 6: Put Your Decision to Work|
Take action. Don’t satisfy yourself with simply having made a tough decision. A good decision means nothing until it’s put into effect.
Inform others. Make sure everyone affected by your decision knows what will change, and why. Explain what improvements they can expect as a result of your decision. Ask for feedback.
Follow up on your plan. Check from time to time to see that any changes you made are still in effect – or to see if adjustments are needed. Also, make sure the problem you solved has not returned or taken another form.
The “Art” and “Science” of Making a Decision Your intuition and your analytical skills can both be helpful – if you know how to put them to work for you. INTUITION is the ability to know or feel something without using logic or reason. Your intuition can help you:
- CREATE IDEAS, providing a starting point for further thought.
- SOLVE “WHY?” OR “SHOULD I?” PROBLEMS – when the answer may be based on feelings, values or opinions.
- BREAK A DEADLOCK in your mind between different solutions.
ANALYTICAL SKILL is the ability to use logic to examine and measure a problem. Your analytical skills can help you:
- EXAMINE THE IDEAS generated by your intuition, to separate the workable ideas from the worthless.
- SOLVE “HOW TO” OR “HOW MANY” PROBLEMS -when the choices can be tested in terms of cold, hard fact (for example, “Is this technique more efficient?” or “Do I have time for both activities?”).
A Guide to Making Decisions in Groups In some cases, two (or more) heads can be better than one! Learn how to recognize the strengths – and avoid the weaknesses – of groups. Groups offer important advantages. For example:
- A WIDER RANGE of knowledge and experience.
- MORE ENERGY and resources to attack a problem.
- EXTRA MOTIVATION from others in the group (people may work harder when others are depending on them).
Groups can have drawbacks, too. Members may:
- FEEL PRESSURE to fit in with the group and be unwilling to offer new or controversial ideas.
- FEEL THEY CAN’T BE HONEST, or critical of others’ ideas.
- SOCIALIZE, and substitute talk for action.
- RELY ON OTHERS to do the work.
Some Decision-Making Dos and Don’ts DO:
- BE HONEST in identifying the problems, setting goals and priorities, evaluating information, etc.
- ACCEPT THE RESPONSIBILITY for making decisions, in your life and on the job.
- USE TIME WISELY when you make decisions. Take as much time as possible without creating more problems.
- HAVE CONFIDENCE in your ability to make good decisions – and to learn from mistakes.
- HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS for yourself – you’re bound to make the wrong decision sooner or later.
- MAKE “SNAP” DECISIONS unless absolutely necessary. Follow the 6 steps to a good decision instead.
- TAKE UNNECESSARY ACTION when the best course of action is to do nothing.
- FOOL YOURSELF by choosing solutions that are easy and comfortable – but fail to address the problem.
Making a decision is easy – but making the RIGHT one requires skill and knowledge.
Some Questions and Answers What if I make a wrong decision?
Mistakes can be the best teachers – use them to your advantage! Find out what went wrong, and put this information to work for you in your future decisions. What if I must make a snap decision?
Obviously, there’s not always time to use the 6 steps. But by using them when you’re able, you’ll build the “feel” for decision making that will help you make better snap decisions, too. Why take the risk of making a tough decision?
Avoiding decisions may seem easier at times. But making your own decisions is the only way to take charge of your life – and your success.