Decision-making is the specific process used to arrive at judgments and conclusions. It is the process of choosing among alternatives. This is a very necessary part of leadership. Every leader must make decisions. Leaders are evaluated by how quickly they can make decisions, and how many of their decisions are correct.
The two extremes in decision-making are the one who makes decisions without proper gathering and analyzing of facts (one who flies by the seat of his pants); and the one who
never seems to collect enough facts and waits too long to make a decision.
There are wide degrees of importance in decisions that are made. A person will decide what clothes to wear one day, where to eat lunch, what to eat for lunch, and many other decisions that are not life changing. However, when one decides where to go to school, what to major in, which church to accept, which house to buy, what staff position to add,
and who to fill it, then he is making major decisions.
Decision-making is not the same as problem-solving. Decision-making can be defined as choosing between alternatives, whereas problem-solving is the process of formulating and implementing a plan of action to eliminate a difficulty. Problem-solving always involves making decisions, but making a decision may or may not solve a problem.
Decision-making is an interdisciplinary process. Economics and statistics provide utility and probability. Sociology and social psychology provide an understanding of group behavior. Law, anthropology, and political science provide an understanding of the environment. Mathematics provides models and stimulations. Psychology provides an understanding of individual behavior. Religion and philosophy provides values and ethics.
Major decisions in a church should involve the church membership. The church should participate in crucial decisions such as adopting major policies, articulating church goals, incurring significant debt, purchasing or selling church property, launching a building program, approving an annual budget, and calling professional staff. Leaders should guide the decision-making process, but not become dictators.
Leaders who fail to help churches make major decisions involving change usually make
one of the following errors:
1. They attempt to move the church toward a goal that the members do not own. Ownership of goals is vital to the achievement of those goals.
2. They use methodologies that are perceived as unprincipled or manipulative. People naturally resent being treated with disrespect or herded like cattle.
3. They fail to motivate the church to change.
4. They are frequently impatient with the slowness of church decision-making and tend to act prematurely.
5. They fail to assess accurately the capacity of the church to change. Goals must be
attainable by faith and hard work. Unattainable goals reflect poorly upon leaders.
6. They fail to enlist individuals whose support is necessary. Comparatively few people have major influence, and unless these people are involved in the process and supportive of decisions it is unlikely that good decisions can be made and implemented. It must be recognized that there are formal and informal leaders that have influence.
7. Leaders fail to understand the dynamics of groups and the process of group decision-making. Poor leaders do not detect the signals of group fragmentation, do not understand how decisions are made, and fail to assess accurately the need for encouragement, solicitation of fresh ideas, postponement of action, or implementation of a different procedure.