Decision Making Basics
Read Time: 6 minutes
Consider the following: you’re sitting at the breakfast table and before you are a healthy meal of eggs, fruit, and oatmeal; the other plate is your favorite unhealthy, breakfast dish. Which do you choose? You’re getting dressed for the day and have a choice between comfy clothes or a more professional option. What do you wear? In both of these daily choices, and the thousands that follow, you unconsciously go through a mental process that determines how your day will unfold. This process is Decision-Making.
Decision Making is one of the eleven, essential categories to your SMaRT plan because of the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) it brings into your life. Without strong skills in this area your stress response can quickly turn from acute to chronic due to paralysis by analysis, procrastination, and a lack of self-confidence in clarity of your choice. This course will address each of these and increase your skills so you can become a Decision Making Master.
Defining Decision Making
Decision Making is the process by which a person or group of people evaluate various options and select a course of action. These actions can range from going on Facebook or Twitter to which lunch to order to letting your kids join a sports team to hiring or firing staff.
CAUTION: Decision Making is often confused with Problem Solving- the mental activity one goes through to reach a goal- because the processes are so intertwined. This course is focusing on Decision Making only.
According to researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC), we make at least 35,000 unconscious and conscious decisions each day. It can be significantly more in the workplace depending on the width of a company’s organizational chart. The wider the organization goes and packed with hierarchy of managers, the more people there is making decisions that are often complex and highly impacting within far reaches of the company. Unfortunately, half of the decisions made by managers within organizations fail (Ireland & Miller, 2004; Nutt, 2002; Nutt, 1999).
This is why decision making is such an important skill in getting SMaRT. The more masterful you are at decision-making the more effective, productive, and confident you become in your choices. This will reduce the stress you have around the process as a whole and increase your sense of security when you land on a choice. When you feel safe and secure your stress response stays at rest.
Types of Decisions
There are two types of decisions that you encounter each day, even if you don’t realize it. First are programmed decisions, those you make often enough that you develop an automated response to them because of the defined rules you set around them. You can look at these as you are developing unconscious habits to regular decisions. Programmed decisions can be simple- eating the same breakfast each morning, to the music you listen to, or how you take your coffee. They can also be complex- creating a weekly schedule, placing supply orders, or repairing your car. You’ve done the actions several times before but there are some tweaks you may need to consider so the outcome isn’t completely predictable. Because of their known rules you’ve set you can make good, decisions quickly.
The second type of decisions are nonprogrammed. These decisions are unique to your daily functions and require conscious thought, research, and/or careful consideration of significant options. Because of the level of effort these decisions take it is difficult to set defined rules around them thus making it harder to select final actions. Often with nonprogrammed decisions people use tools or models to come to the final conclusion. We will explore these further throughout the course.
Categories of Decisions
For the purposes of this course, we aren’t going to spend much time on exploring the various categories of decision-making. Three are notable enough to mention.
- Strategic Decisions- Determine the course for an organization; often made by top authority
- Tactile Decisions- Outlines how things will get done; often made by managers
- Operational Decisions- Choices selected by tribe members that run daily functions; often made by members throughout the organization
The type of decision becomes relevant when you are choosing a type of tool or model to assist you in making your choice. Again, we’ll be getting more into different types of models in future sections.
There are the breakdowns for Decision Making: definitions, types, and categories. As you move forward through this course it will be helpful to remember this so you can select the right tools and models for your needs. Now onto the process of decision making.
Decision Making is the process by which a person or group of people evaluate various options and select a course of action. There are two types of decisions that you encounter each day, even if you don’t realize it. First are programmed decisions, those you make often enough that you develop an automated response to them because of the defined rules you set around them. The second type of decisions are nonprogrammed. These decisions are unique to your daily functions and require conscious thought, research, and/or careful consideration of significant options.