We all make decisions. They may be easy or difficult. Some don’t require very much thought but others can impact our life, our career, or other individuals who are important to us. For those decisions that have great meaning for our life and our work, it’s important to do the best possible job that we can in reaching conclusions that will be to our benefit.
At my organization, Life & Career Planning, we developed a decision-making process based on research of numerous decision-making models. Below is a step by step outline of the process. Its application is not for the easy or day-to-day decisions we all make. We suggest using it when faced with a serious life or career problem or when an opportunity arises. Review the model and then review the case study we provide as an example.
- Identify and Define Recognize that you want/need to make a decision about something. Define the nature of the decision as clearly as possible. Is this an opportunity or a challenge?
- Gather Information Focus internally through self-assessment and externally through research. What information do you need to help you make a good decision?
- Create Alternatives Brainstorm options. Do not limit yourself. List all that are reasonable and advantageous.
- Evaluate Each Alternative Draw on your research and self-assessment to imagine the outcome of each of the alternatives, not only on you but also on others close to you. Consider short and long-term effects and whether the want/need identified in Step 1 would be met/resolved through the use of each alternative. Discuss with your colleagues or a trusted advisor as appropriate. Eliminate some of the weaker alternatives so that you have only a few to consider.
- Decide on an Alternative When you have finished analyzing the different alternatives, select the one that appears to be the best for you. Document a step by step plan that when activated will move you toward resolution.
- Implement Take positive action over the timeframe noted in your plan and implement the alternative you chose in Step 5.
- Review the Outcome Consider the results of your chosen alternative and evaluate if it has resolved the need you identified. If the action has not met the need, repeat this process using the learning from the alternative that you chose in order to select a new alternative.
Here is an example case study of how to use the Decision-Making Process.
- Identify and Define Julia is a very experienced and knowledgeable technology executive. She has been working for her company’s CEO for just over a year. She is upset and frustrated because the CEO, who is experienced in technology but not as much as Julia, continually pushes back on Julia when she is taking independent action. The CEO wants to control a broad array of decision-making as applied in the technology arena. He seems to do it because he likes the field, rather than because it is necessary to get the desired results. Julia likes the company and her position in it except for the fact that she and the CEO clash more often than not over Julia’s independent role and the decisions she is making
- Gather Information Julia needs to spend time in self-assessment and reflection regarding her frustration with her boss’ micromanagement. She can also do some research about the technology job market to understand the viability of changing jobs
- Create Alternatives
- Julia can just continue to put up with the boss’ behavior and make an effort to not let it bother her so much
- Julia can speak with the boss and let him know that she is frustrated with the micromanagement and suggest a period of time that the boss lets Julia make the technology decisions and see if the boss can become comfortable with that arrangement
- Julia can go to the head of human resources (HR) and see if they can set up a meeting with the boss to discuss the micromanagement. Maybe HR can have some influence
- Julia can look for a similar position in another organization
- Evaluate Each Alternative
- Put up with the behavior: Julia is feeling frustrated and undervalued and this is demotivating. This is tolerable in the short run but in the long run Julia can’t live with that level of stress and frustration. This is not a viable option for Julia
- Speak with the boss: The risk here is that the boss may reject Julia’s request to let her make the technology decisions and Julia has now potentially angered the boss and her career situation is unresolved. On the other hand, the boss may be unaware of how this is impacting Julia and may be willing to back off and let Julia do her job. This seems like a viable alternative for Julia
- Go to HR: While it might be helpful to have HR intervene with the boss, it also could anger the boss that Julia didn’t address the issues directly with the boss. Julia is a senior executive and should attempt to manage this herself first. This is not a first-choice alternative
- Look for a new job: There are many unknowns when changing jobs – Julia might have to move, there is no guarantee that her relationship with the new boss would be a good one, changing jobs may increase her commute. This alternative is most likely a last resort
- Decide on an Alternative Julia decides to have a conversation with her boss. She prepares for the conversation by discussing the issue in depth with a trusted colleague in another organization and plans a strategy for the discussion
- Implement Julia makes a late afternoon appointment to meet with her boss. She has practiced how she will present the issue to her boss. Although she feels some anxiety, she calmly makes her presentation and suggests that the boss allow Julia to make all the technology decisions for 60 days and then they will have a follow up meeting to debrief and agree how to proceed
- Review the Outcome Julia’s boss has been unaware of how his micromanaging has impacted Julia. The boss agrees to Julia’s 60-day proposal. Julia will need to revisit this step 7 of the Decision-Making Process after the 60-day period is over. If Julia is happy with the result, she has accomplished her desired outcome. If the boss reverts to his micromanaging ways, Julia will need to repeat the process using the learning from the first alternative she implemented and choose a different alternative.
Taking the time to follow these steps will help you make good decisions at work and in your personal life too.
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