By the
Mind Tools
Editorial Team

Reactive Decision Making

Making Good Decisions Under Pressure

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It is possible to make good decisions under pressure if you plan ahead.

People tend to make decisions reactively when confronted with emergency situations or when a disaster unfolds.

In these circumstances, the best decisions tend to be those that have been thought-through and rehearsed ahead of time, a good example being use of a pre-prepared evacuation plan when the office catches on fire.

The normal decision-making process generally involves:

  1. Defining the problem.
  2. Collecting necessary information.
  3. Developing options.
  4. Devising a plan.
  5. Executing.
  6. Following-up.

However reactive decision-making is, well, reactive. Because of this, there's not usually time to execute this full decision-making process, meaning that it's all-too-easy to make a bad decision when under pressure.

What this means is that actions to be taken in an emergency should be carefully planned for beforehand so that you can act appropriately when an event occurs. This may include, for example, devising contingency plans for what to do when a supplier ships poor quality goods when you are on a very tight deadline, or planning how to get essential systems back online if your office premises are burgled and computers are stolen.

Planning for Exceptional Reactive Decision Making

When doing this, the first step is to look at the risks you face and determine if they have a high or low probability of occurring.

You can use a Risk Assessment Matrix (RAM) to do this. To create a Risk Assessment Matrix, draw a graph, matrix or simple table with a vertical axis marked as...

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