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We face problems and opportunities all the time. This would mean we need to make choices. Making choices is about making decisions. Unfortunately making decisions is not always easy, unless we master the skill using some reliable tool. In meetings we are always under pressure to make decisions. Unfortunately, when inadequate time is spent in problem identification and solution development, the quality of decision making suffers.

Are we ready for the decision Making?

When you have to make a decision in your next regular management meeting, because it has been in the agenda for some time, just ask “Are we ready for making a decision?”. Unless everyone can answer with confidence that they are in a position to say ‘YES’ you should not rush into making a decision. A quick check list comprising the following questions is the best way to get started:

  • Was a brainstorming conducted to gather as many alternatives as possible?
  • Did we spend adequate time to understand the consequences of the various options?
  • Do we have all the required data and information?
  • Was the problem identification and solution generation handled by competent people?
  • What happens if we choose not to make a decision on this issue today?
  • Are we under pressure to make a quick decision that is likely to prevent us from making a good decision?
  • Are we in a position to make a decision without any restrictive and limiting assumptions that are basically not right?

Do we have the decision criteria?

Answers to these questions will make the next step much easier to manage. Most often, we ignore these questions and eventually we pay a price. Once we complete this part of decision making aspect, we should move on to critically evaluate each option we have developed earlier. This will only be possible if we have a comprehensive checklist. Criteria that are too general and inadequate are not going to be of any help here. Spending adequate time at this level is critical. We may depend on the following checklist to make this step a meaningful one:

  • What are the key success factors?
  • Have we identified the most critical criterion that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the choice?
  • Do the identified criteria recognise the resource limitations we are experiencing?
  • Should the list of criteria include financial elements?

Do we have the tools to evaluate the alternatives?

While most of us simply use the decision criteria on an ad hoc basis, without using specific decision-making tools. Adopting appropriate decision-making tools will enhance the overall effectiveness of decisions made during meetings. Learning to use the right tools is the best way to make right decisions. There are a number of choices as far as the decision-making tools are concerned. Some of the commonly used tools by effective decision makers include the following:

  • Forced-Field Analysis – This model developed by Kurt Lewin, enable us to identify the factors/forces that will enhance/facilitate changes as well as the forces that will restrain that are likely to oppose the proposed solutions. This tool enables the decision maker to seek new ways to manage the opposing forces.
  • Pros and Cons Analysis Model – the advantages and disadvantages of each option is identified. In the process the decision maker should be able to determine possible solutions to the problems identified, thus making the final choice more relevant.
  • Prioritisation Matrix – a simple tool to use that will allow the decision makers to prioritise the options developed during brainstorming/idea generation stage. This model is a powerful tool to sort the various alternatives into a meaningful order of importance.

Using some of the reliable tools is critical to make sure the decisions we make in our meetings remain relevant and effective.