The average adult makes more than 35,000 decisions a day. If you're in any kind of leadership position, you probably make even more business decisions.
Some decisions are easy to make, like whether to have a sandwich for lunch or what song you want to listen to, and some decisions are very hard, like which career path to choose.
It can be a challenge to make decisions. It becomes even harder if your decisions have a direct consequence on others.
How can you handle this process if your stomach turns just thinking about having to make a decision?
The Decision-Making Process
So, you need to make a big decision at work. Perhaps you're trying to decide who to give a big presentation to or which project to submit a proposal for.
The decision you make will affect your colleagues, so you want to be sure you make an informed decision.
Making decisions is a lot like problem-solving. There are steps you can take to work through the problem—the decision you have to make—to arrive at the solution—your final decision—that makes the most sense.
Below are 7 steps you can take to improve your decision-making skills.
Identify The Decision By Defining The Problem
Before you do anything else, you need to identify the decision you have to make. It's difficult to make a clear-cut choice if you're not clear on what you're making a decision about.
To clarify your objective, you can write it down, talk it over with a colleague or a friend, or talk it out to yourself. You may need to do some combination of these to truly define that objective.
Taking the time to laser focus on the problem you're trying to solve (aka the decision you want to make) will give you confidence as you move through the next steps.
What do you need to know to make your decision? This is a time for seeking out information. You may need to look more into yourself, or you may need to look online or speak to your co-workers.
It's critical to pinpoint why you're making this decision and uncover any obstacles that may stand in your way.
Perhaps you need to know more about the proposal you're considering or the project you'd be committing to.
If other people are involved in the outcome of your decision, you can survey them to see what their thoughts are.
Collecting all of the data and facts relevant to your objective will help you to make an informed choice.
Identify Your Options
As you're collecting all your data, your options should start to take shape.
Make a note of all the alternatives that come to mind. Some may be borne from your research, while others may spring from your imagination.
Write down anything you can think of. At this stage, you may think you know what will solve your problem, but you never know when another idea might be even better.
Weigh the Evidence
You've done your research, and you've listed all the possible options for meeting your objective (solving your problem). It's time to figure out which one might work best.
Examine each alternative you came up with. Of each alternative, ask yourself: Will this meet the objective? Will this solve my problem? What are the pros and cons?
As you go through this process, you may start to feel more strongly about some options, or you may start to eliminate options you realize won't work.
Go ahead and rank your options from the ones you think could be best to those you're not as sure of.
Choose an Alternative
Look at the ranked list you made of all the alternatives you came up with.
Choose the option you think will best meet the objective you stated back in Step 1.
It's possible you can combine some elements from your alternatives to come up with the best solution to your problem.
If you're not entirely sure of your choice, you can consult with a friend or colleague to get their opinion.
Keep in mind that you may need to tweak this choice somewhere down the line, and that's fine. Remember that you came up with this solution after careful research and a thorough thought process.
Go ahead and implement the choice you made. At this point, you'll want to identify the resources you'll need to move forward and get your colleagues on board with your decision.
Don't forget to be prepared to answer any questions they may have about the solution you chose.
It may take some time to get the ball rolling but be confident in your decision-making skills. Once things are moving along, be sure to monitor how things are going. Check-in with colleagues to get their take.
As stated in Step 5, you may well need to adjust aspects of your plan as you go. You might even revisit that ranked list of alternatives to see if something there will help smooth out any rough edges.
Review Your Decision
Even though this comes after you've made your choice, this is a very important step. Take time out to evaluate the results of your decision.
did you take an intuitive decision or a well-taught one? Is your objective being met? Are your colleagues still on board? These are the types of questions decision-makers need to ask themselves.
If the answers to those questions are yes, great!
If they aren't, you can repeat one of the steps you took to make it this far. You can do some more research or consider one of the other alternatives from the list you made.
The decision-making process is not an easy one. The more complex a problem is, the harder it can be to work out a solution.
By following the steps above, you can be confident you've made a decision based on research, efficacy, and practice.
Need more content on structured approaches to problem-solving and decision-making? Check out this article.
Subscribe to our email newsletter and unlock access to members-only content and exclusive updates.