Seven Steps to Making Decisions

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 Identify the problem | Find alternatives | Assess the alternatives | Choose a solution | Do it | Review and evaluate | Accept responsibility | Related topics

We make many decisions automatically every day without even thinking about it. Deciding to get out of bed in the morning, deciding what clothes to wear to work or deciding what to eat for supper may seem relatively simple for some people but for others this may be very challenging. Like learning to drive a car or play baseball, basic skills are developed to perform at a maximum level. Decision making is no different. The more these skills are practised, the easier it gets to master decision making. There are seven steps to follow when you are faced with any dilemna. Use the checklist below as a guideline for making future decisions.

Identify the Problem

Define the real problem, issue, concern or decision to be made. Like an iceberg, only part of the problem may be on the surface.

Find out what's below the water line. Spending time at this stage will prevent the problem from reoccurring in the future.

Points to consider:
___All the facts have been mentioned.
___All viewpoints have been considered.
___A list of additional resources required to take action is developed.

Find Alternatives

Brainstorm all the alternatives from the obvious to the insane without any judgements at this time. The more alternatives you have listed, the better the final decision will be preventing impulsive action.

Points to consider:
___Other perspectives on this issue are pondered: allies, opposition, your boss or a consultant.
___List your preferences for how things should be.

Assess the Alternatives

There are many ways to assess the list of alternatives you have developed: the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative, priorize each item, develop a criteria matrix, or weigh against consequences. Set a time limit for this stage as it is easy to get bogged down.

Points to consider:
___The alternatives are in line with your goals.
___Evaluate the costs compared to the benefits.

Choose a Solution

In reviewing all the expectations and priorities, a solution can be chosen. But a poor decision is better than no decision. Set up an action plan to achieve your solution.

Points to consider:
___This solution solves the problem.
___This solution is satisfying.
___There is commitment to the decision.
___Checkpoints are in place to indicate when goals are met.

Do It

Commitment to the plan is required before the action is put into motion.

Points to consider:
___Someone is responsible for each action step.
___Timelines are in place.
___Progress and problems are assessed as required.
___A contingency plan has been considered.

Review and Evaluate

Monitor the results of your decision on a regular basis. You may need to make minor changes as you go.

Points to consider:
___Positive and negative results are recorded.
___Other opinions on the results are pursued.

Accept Responsibility

This step occurs throughout the decision making process. Take pride in the positive outcomes and accept any drawbacks as learning experiences.

Points to consider:
___Future outcomes are anticipated.
___You will continue to apply what you have learned.

Related Topics

Decision Making for Farm Families ( Agdex 1834O-2)
Systematic Problem Solving and Decision Making, Sandy Pokras, Crisp Publications, 1988
Family Community Leadership Publications
For more information about the content of this document, contact Shauna Johnston.
This document is maintained by Stacey Tames.
This information published to the web on July 4, 2006.
Last Reviewed/Revised on June 24, 2009.