The Decision Making Process

Decisions are made on the basis of intuition, emotions, experience, deductive logic, tryout, or considered judgment. The best approach to take would be the last, that of considered judgment. This would involve using a decision-making process.

Setting goals and priorities.

The decision-making process starts with the setting of goals. This begins a given cycle that culminates when the goals are met. The next complete cycle begins with the setting of new goals. The goals should state what is to be achieved, preserved, and avoided. Criteria for making good goals include relevance, practicality, challenge, measurability, balance, flexibility, timeliness, growth, cost effectiveness, and accountability. Priorities need to reflect the goals that must be met, and which are desirable but not mandatory.

Defining of the problem or situation

Three questions need to be answered. What is the apparent problem? What are the facts about the problem? What is the real problem? Sometimes when the facts are in, the discovery is made that the apparent problem is not the real problem.

Searching for alternatives

In the decision-making process, search involves scanning the internal and external environments of the organization for information. Relevant information is formulated into alternatives that seem likely to fulfill the goals. Some are rejected immediately, but many alternatives are kept for additional study. Decision makers need to be open minded. Limits of time and money will have to be placed on the search. A creative brainstorming approach might be used when all kinds of solutions are suggested, and then the better ones are investigated.

Comparing and evaluating alternatives

There is a danger here of “paralysis of analysis.” Alternatives represent various courses of action that singly or in combination may help attain the goals. By formal and informal means, alternatives are compared based on the certainty or uncertainty of cause and effect relationships and the preferences of the decision maker for various probabilistic outcomes. Here the decision maker needs to consider what the Bible says, what ethical issues are involved, and what impact this decision will have on the people involved.

A careful review of probable consequences of each alternative must be made. When this is done, an elimination of several alternatives can be completed. Three techniques are used:

Judgmental, which is based on experience, values, perceptions, and intuition. This is frequently used because it is the quickest.
Bargaining, where choices are controversial and external forces have power.
Analysis, where the choice is made based on maximizing objectives. This last technique is very thorough.

Act of choice

This is just one part of the process. Choice is a moment in the ongoing process of decision-making when the decision maker chooses a given course of action from among a set of alternatives. There are constraints to deal with, such as the cognitive limitations, time and cost restrictions, and imperfect information.

There are some special problems in choosing between alternatives:
(1) When two alternatives appear equally attractive, flip a coin.
(2) When no choice will accomplish all the objectives, use two or three choices.
(3) When side effects or consequences appear too harsh, keep looking for other alternatives, or revise this one.
(4) When there are too many choices, then organize them.
(5) When none of the alternatives will accomplish the goals, keep looking or modify the goals.

When a choice of alternatives is made, it will produce two results:
(1) A change of organization. Organizational changes cause anxiety, hostility, and resistance. Implementation plans for the decision needs to include how to change the organization with the least amount of problems.
(2) A commitment of resources: finances, human, and physical. These resources are not unlimited and so a commitment to one decision makes resources unavailable for other decisions or programs.

Implementing the decision

Implementation causes the chosen course of action to be carried out within the organization. It is that moment in the total decision-making process when the choice is transformed from an abstraction into an operational reality. The formal communication of that decision to the members is next.

Follow-up and control

This function is intended to ensure that the implemented decision results in an outcome that is in keeping with the objectives that gave rise to the total cycle of functions within the decision-making process.

IDEAL Decision Making

A simple and easy to remember anagram of decision-making based on the word “Ideal” has been suggested:

Identify the problem
Define the problem
Explore possible strategies
Act on your decision
Look at the results of your solution.

There are criteria to use to evaluate if the decision made is a good decision:
1. A good decision inspires initial confidence––you feel good about it.
2. You based your decision on an adequate amount of information. You stopped to ask, “Exactly what is needed to know to make this decision––and how do I get the information?” Unless you have done this you may continue to feel uneasy about your decision.
3. The decision was clearly necessary and directed to the real issues.
4. It coincides with what you believe the Bible teaches and with your overriding priority to worship God and to please Him.
5. Your decision will best achieve the basic purpose for making the decision and accomplish your goals better than alternatives.
6. It is a well-balanced decision (you achieve what you want to achieve without too great a risk to available resources) and it will not create additional problems.
7. You can support it objectively and defend it logically.
8. You are confident it will be implemented by those on whom its success depends.

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