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How do you make decisions?

Written by on 31 January 2011

The ability to make good quality decisions has been seen as a critical attribute of good leadership. However, the question arises, does analysing a problem and coming to a good decision depend on good individuals or sound methodologies?

Methodologies for decision-making

The adoption of a methodology for decision-making often involves some kind of system that attempts to deconstruct the complexities of the context and identify the variables that exist. Through capturing these key elements, the decision maker attempts to visualise the problem and uses the methodology of deduction, refinement and problem solving in order to develop a number of options. The British military uses a system of decision-making methodologies. At a strategic level, the campaign (or six step) estimate is used, whilst at the operational/tactical level, the seven questions approach is utilised. Both methods produce a plan and provide a number of key points from which the commander can make decisions. These processes deconstruct the complexities of the task and provide a handrail from which leaders and their staff can approach a problem in a systematic way.

The critical point of decision-making

Once a number of options have been developed, the individual needs to act, to make a decision. Many things such as the decision maker’s experience, training and natural inclination for one form of action can influence this final stage of decision-making over another. It would appear that the concept of universal good decision making is unattainable. Getting the right kind of decision makers for the organisational context is key for delivering sustainable competitive advantage.

The benefits of a decision-making methodology

Adopting a methodology for deconstructing complexity is extremely useful for training quality and robustness in decision-making. Through adopting an understood methodology that is shared across an entire organisation has a number of benefits. Firstly, it provides transparency as to how a decision has been arrived at, and secondly, it provides a recognised audit trail that can be traced back and evaluated. Thirdly, it provides distinctive points in the process that allows information, deductions and allocated actions to be shared across the organisation. This pre-emption is critical to speeding up the implementation cycle.

The role of quality communications

Decision making methodologies help the quality of the output product, as well as providing valuable insight and knowledge sharing opportunities. However, a quality method and widely understood communication (language and process) is key to sharing, understanding and implementation of quality decision-making.

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