Improve Your Decision-Making Process

Basic Business Cents

I have a friend who used to become so stressed when faced with a decision at work that he became physically ill. His doctor finally advised him to resign from his position and he retired early. That is an unusual case and most of us are much luckier when faced with decisions.

You make many decisions every day. Some are easy, some are challenging, and some are difficult. Some are of little consequence, and some are very important. Some of you find making decisions easy and some find it very stressful. No matter the conditions, higher quality, more timely, and easier decisions can be made with a standard process that you follow on a regular basis. Acronyms are sometimes useful in aiding our memory of the steps of a process, such as the CADET Decision-Making Process.

C. Classify the Type of Decision. Some decisions must be made instantly because time demands an immediate decision. In this case, you must rely on your experience, intuition, and training and make the best decision that you can. When you have more time, you can categorize your decision into one of three types. If it is of little consequence, you can again use your experience, intuition, and training and make the decision and go on to more important work. If it is more important or challenging, then walk through the CADET Process in your mind and make the decision.  It is useful to make a chart of the pros and cons of the decision, either on a flip chart or white board if in a group, or simply on a plain sheet of paper if by yourself. If the decision is critically important, then research the problem necessitating the decision and analyze the data collected on the consequences of various decisions.

A. Identify and evaluate Alternative Solutions. You might go to the people directly involved with or affected by the decision and brainstorm all possible alternatives. Two to ten heads are usually better than one.  More than ten begins to diminish the effectiveness of the time used and quality of input. Collect data on the problem requiring the decision. Good data always simplifies decision-making. Again, talk to the people involved and evaluate alternatives and their consequences. It is possible to do research on what others have done, both inside and outside your organization, when faced with a similar decision.

D. Make the Decision. After you are satisfied that you have sufficient data and input from the people involved, don’t procrastinate. You are probably being paid to make such decisions and not for waffling. Waffles get eaten. Remember the maxim attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

E. Execute the decision. It is wise to communicate the reasons for the decision to the people involved and to management. Remember, don’t just tell them, discuss it with them to make sure they understand and agree.

T. Test the impact of the decision. If possible, implement on a test sample and support your theory used in making the decision. If the results are positive, roll it out across the organization. If not, reenter your decision-making process armed with what you have learned. Whether or not you implement on a test case first, monitor the results to ensure you are achieving what you desire.

Learn all you can from your experience with the CADET process to improve your decision-making ability for the future. As with any process, regular use will improve your comfort and ability to get results, improve your skills, and increase your usefulness to your organization.