How Good Is Your Decision-Making?

You won't always have all the data you'd like.

© iStockphoto/Maica

Decision-making is a key skill in the workplace, and is particularly important if you want to be an effective leader.

Whether you're deciding which person to hire, which supplier to use, or which strategy to pursue, the ability to make a good decision with available information is vital.

It would be easy if there were one formula you could use in any situation, but there isn't.

Each decision presents its own challenges, and we all have different ways of approaching problems.

So, how do you avoid making bad decisions – or leaving decisions to chance? You need a systematic approach to decision-making so that, no matter what type of decision you have to make, you can take decisions with confidence.

No one can afford to make poor decisions. That's why we've developed a short quiz to help you assess your current decision-making skills. We'll examine how well you structure your decision-making process, and then we'll point you to specific tools and resources you can use to develop and improve this important competency.

How Good Are Your Decision-Making Skills?

Instructions:

For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the 'wrong direction'. When you are finished, please click the 'Calculate My Total' button at the bottom of the test.

   18 Statements to Answer

Not
at All
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1 I evaluate the risks associated with each alternative before making a decision.
2 After I make a decision, it's final – because I know my process is strong.
3 I try to determine the real issue before starting a decision-making process.
4 I rely on my own experience to find potential solutions to a problem.
5 I tend to have a strong "gut instinct" about problems, and I rely on it in decision-making.
6 I am sometimes surprised by the actual consequences of my decisions.
7 I use a well-defined process to structure my decisions.
8 I think that involving many stakeholders to generate solutions can make the process more complicated than it needs to be.
9 If I have doubts about my decision, I go back and recheck my assumptions and my process.
10 I take the time needed to choose the best decision-making tool for each specific decision.
11 I consider a variety of potential solutions before I make my decision.
12 Before I communicate my decision, I create an implementation plan.
13 In a group decision-making process, I tend to support my friends' proposals and try to find ways to make them work.
14 When communicating my decision, I include my rationale and justification.
15 Some of the options I've chosen have been much more difficult to implement than I had expected.
16 I prefer to make decisions on my own, and then let other people know what I've decided.
17 I determine the factors most important to the decision, and then use those factors to evaluate my choices.
18 I emphasize how confident I am in my decision as a way to gain support for my plans.
Calculate My Total
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
18-42 Your decision-making hasn't fully matured. You aren't objective enough, and you rely too much on luck, instinct or timing to make reliable decisions. Start to improve your decision-making skills by focusing more on the process that leads to the decision, rather than on the decision itself. With a solid process, you can face any decision with confidence. We'll show you how. (Read below to start.)
43-66 Your decision-making process is OK. You have a good understanding of the basics, but now you need to improve your process and be more proactive. Concentrate on finding lots of options and discovering as many risks and consequences as you can. The better your analysis, the better your decision will be in the long term. Focus specifically on the areas where you lost points, and develop a system that will work for you across a wide variety of situations. (Read below to start.)
67-90 You have an excellent approach to decision-making! You know how to set up the process and generate lots of potential solutions. From there, you analyze the options carefully, and you make the best decisions possible based on what you know. As you gain more and more experience, use that information to evaluate your decisions, and continue to build on your decision-making success. Think about the areas where you lost points, and decide how you can include those areas in your process. (Read below to start.)

As you answered the questions, did you see some common themes? We based our quiz on six essential steps in the decision-making process:

  1. Establishing a positive decision-making environment.
  2. Generating potential solutions.
  3. Evaluating the solutions.
  4. Deciding.
  5. Checking the decision.
  6. Communicating and implementing.

If you're aware of these six basic elements and improve the way you structure them, this will help you develop a better overall decision-making system. Let's look at the six elements individually.

Establishing a Positive Decision-Making Environment

(Statements 3, 7, 13, 16)

If you've ever been in a meeting where people seem to be discussing different issues, then you've seen what happens when the decision-making environment hasn't been established. It's so important for everyone to understand the issue before preparing to make a decision. This includes agreeing on an objective, making sure the right issue is being discussed, and agreeing on a process to move the decision forward.

You also must address key interpersonal considerations at the very beginning. Have you included all the stakeholders? And do the people involved in the decision agree to respect one another and engage in an open and honest discussion? After all, if only the strongest opinions are heard, you risk not considering some of the best solutions available. Click here   to learn more about creating a constructive decision-making environment  .

Generating Potential Solutions

(Statements 4, 8, 11)

Another important part of a good decision process is generating as many good alternatives as sensibly possible to consider. If you simply adopt the first solution you encounter, then you're probably missing a great many even better alternatives. Click here   to learn about some powerful tools for generating good alternatives, expanding the number of ideas, and considering different perspectives.

Evaluating Alternatives

(Statements 1, 6, 15)

The stage of exploring alternatives is often the most time-consuming part of the decision-making process. This stage sometimes takes so long that a decision is never made! To make this step efficient, be clear about the factors you want to include in your analysis. There are three key factors to consider:

  1. Risk – Most decisions involve some risk. However, you need to uncover and understand the risks to make the best choice possible.
  2. Consequences – You can't predict the implications of a decision with 100% accuracy. But you can be careful and systematic in the way that you identify and evaluate possible consequences.
  3. Feasibility – Is the choice realistic and implementable? This factor is often ignored. You usually have to consider certain constraints when making a decision. As part of this evaluation stage, ensure that the alternative you've selected is significantly better than the status quo.

Click here   to see a list of tools that you can use to improve the way you evaluate alternatives  .

Deciding

(Statements 5, 10, 17)

Making the decision itself can be exciting and stressful. To help you deal with these emotions as objectively as possible, use a structured approached to the decision. This means taking a look at what's most important in a good decision.

Take the time to think ahead and determine exactly what will make the decision “right.” This will significantly improve your decision accuracy. Click here   to learn about the different tools that you can use to make a good decision.

Checking the Decision

(Statements 2, 9)

Remember that some things about a decision are not objective. The decision has to make sense on an intuitive, instinctive level as well. The entire process we have discussed so far has been based on the perspectives and experiences of all the people involved. Now it's time to check the alternative you've chosen for validity and "making sense."

If the decision is a significant one, it's also worth auditing it to make sure that your assumptions are correct, and that the logical structure you've used to make the decision is sound.

Click here   to learn more about tools that you can use to do this.

Communicating and Implementing

(Statements 12, 14, 18)

The last stage in the decision-making process involves communicating your choice and preparing to implement it. You can try to force your decision on others by demanding their acceptance. Or you can gain their acceptance by explaining how and why you reached your decision. For most decisions – particularly those that need participant buy-in before implementation – it's more effective to gather support by explaining your decision.

Have a plan for implementing your decision. People usually respond positively to a clear plan – one that tells them what to expect and what they need to do. For more information on developing these types of plans, read our articles about project management   and change management  .

Key Points

Decision-making is a skill – and skills can usually be improved. As you gain more experience making decisions, and as you become more familiar with the tools and structures needed for effective decision-making, you'll improve your confidence. Use this opportunity to think about how you can improve your decision-making and take your skills to the next level. Ultimately, improving your decision-making skills will benefit you and your organization.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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Comments (5)
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi bmashoko,
    Welcome to the Club, and glad to hear that you liked the article.

    Whenever we develop new habits and new ways of doing things, we do indeed need to stop ourselves from reacting, we need to take that step back and remind ourselves of a new way of doing things.

    Yet, as you pointed out, time is a rare luxury, so at a certain point, you DO need to make that decision and move forward. Yet, there is always benefit from taking that time initially to evaluate other options before proceeding!

    Hope to see you around the Forums or in the Cafe with any questions or input to discussions. If there is anything I can help you with, just let me know.

    Midgie
  • bmashoko wrote Over a month ago
    Great article! I pursued the element of generating many good alternatives since I still have to cure myself from focusing on the first solution that comes to mind and relying on my own experience and insights. So many exciting approaches to choose from--------- but I must focus on how to organise and profit from these ideas once we churn them out or risk burying ourselves under! And always these days time is a rare luxury!
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Jim

    Welcome to the forums - I'm SO glad to hear you're enjoying your membership!

    Isn't it interesting how a quiz can just sometimes 'switch on the lights' and make us aware of our own areas of growth? It just gives you another perspective on current events in your life/career.

    Well, now that you've broken the ice regarding forum contributions, we hope to see much more of you in future.

    Kind regards
    Yolandé
  • firefox50310 wrote Over a month ago
    Working as an Analyst I was surprised by taking the quiz truthfully how many skills I need to improve on. I have been in the work force for many years but the reality is that if you have never been formally trained in these skills you may fall short.

    I have been using the Mind Tools for about 6 months now and I was not sure if the cost vs the gain (there goes the analyst in me again) would be worth it. WELL, I am happy to say that I have found the site easy to use and the quality and quantity the tools are simply outstanding.

    I can now take my results and formulate a plan in which to improve my skills.

    I hope you all have a SUPER week!
    Jim
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    What I liked about this article and quiz is that it outlined the six essential steps in the decision-making process, and provided links to additional tools to build our skills in each of the areas.

    So, once I had determined which areas could be improved upon, I then was able to take a look at what I could do to strengthen those areas.

    Now, it's going to take a bit of practice ... however, I know by making a focused effort on things, I will indeed improve my decision making abilities!

    Midgie

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