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The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

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smallgroup8

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem. Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur. An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Overcoming and Preventing Groupthink

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

with 5 comments

smallgroup6

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem.

Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur.

An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Resolving Negative Employee Behaviors Takes the Right Solution

with one comment

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The easiest and most obvious solution to a behavioral problem is for the manager to arbitrarily pick a solution that he or she deems appropriate to resolving the problem. However, this does not take into account the motivational issues that can affect the final outcome.

A poorly chosen solution can compound rather than solve a problem, especially if the employee is resistant to the idea.

When confronted with an employee’s behavioral or attitude problem, the manager has several choices to make. If the problem is serious enough, termination is an option; yet with the high cost of recruiting and training, this may not be the best option.

However, dealing with negative behaviors and attitudes present sticky motivational problems of their own.

There may be resentment on the part of the employee concerning any solution presented to them. Often the best approach is to involve the employee in the development of the solution. When the employee is involved, they gain ownership of the solution, which insures that they will actively and successfully be involved in its implementation.

Additionally, they are privy to the process and see that a solution is arrived at in a fair and just manner, not arbitrarily. These steps minimize the motivational problems associated with the resolution of the problem and make it easier for the manager to work with the employee during the implementation phases.

Arriving at an appropriate and effective solution to remedy negative behaviors and attitudes need not take an inordinate amount of time. However, it should be done in a systematic manner so that the employee is actively involved in the process, can readily see how the solution has been arrived at, and understands it serves the interests of all involved.

The following steps should be adhered to during the resolution process:

Brainstorming

The most practical approach to developing a workable and effective solution to a problem is through brainstorming. In these instances the manager is limited to brainstorming ideas and solutions with the employee who has the problem and with other managers and superiors who are aware of the problem.

This problem solving approach produces specific benefits by identifying all possible solutions from every perspective. Additionally, it includes the employee in the resolution of the problem. Empowering them by giving him or her ownership of the solution, gives the employee a vested interest, realizing a successful outcome.

Both the manager and employee should list every possible solution—even those that appear unlikely or impractical. Nothing should be dismissed without careful consideration; otherwise a negative atmosphere as opposed to an open-minded approach to a solution will be created.

Selection Criteria

Obviously not every choice brainstormed will be practical or feasible. However, before any idea is discarded, both the manager and employee should identify the criteria that will be used to evaluate each possible solution.

Criteria should be established according to specific parameters that result in the successful resolution of the problem. These might include the cost, timeliness, time frames, effectiveness and total resolution of the problem so that it does not occur again. Other criteria can be selected that assist both parties in achieving the overall goal.

Bracketing Choices

Once the manager and employee have agreed upon the criteria, it is an easy task to filter all of the choices developed through brainstorming and to bracket the specific options meeting the selection criteria. All other options are eliminated from consideration.

Since the employee is actively participating in this process, they can see the logic of the decisions that will impact them, which eliminates resistance to the final resolution.

Prioritize and Select the Best Option

The bracketing of possible solutions will typically identify several options to resolve a problem. Both the manager and employee should reach a consensus and prioritize each of the solutions in order of their effectiveness.

Invariably, the employee will not wish to see specific options chosen since they are not in their best interest or will take more effort than they are willing to invest. This is why a consensus should be reached as to what will ultimately constitute the best choices for a solution.

The final step is to choose the best solution to the problem, one that satisfies both management and the employee while solving the problem.

Related:

Six Ways to Turn a Poor Performer Around

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

Excerpt: Negative Workplace Attitudes (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

with 4 comments

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Related: Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem.

Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Related: Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur.

An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt:Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Four Stages of Effective Decision Making

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In order to thoroughly identify, assess and select a “best choice” alternative from among a variety of potential solutions, it is essential to understand how to utilize the various stages of decision making in a manner that accommodates creative insight and thought.

Decision-making is most powerful when combined with logical, intuitive and creative mental processing. The stages used at specific points in the decision making and problem solving processes are well suited to group settings but are equally applicable to individual situations.

Tunnel vision is the biggest obstacle to problem identification during the decision making process. Tunnel vision often leads to artificial restrictions on the search for alternatives because it leads to a problem being defined too narrowly.

In order to prevent tunnel vision and maintain focus on the main problem, four decision-making stages and their individual steps should be followed in the specific order outlined below. Careful execution of these stages will help generate the best solution for an existing problem.

The Contribution Stage

The goal of the contribution stage is to gain a better understanding of the existing problem and the specific circumstances surrounding it.

Before doing anything, the decision making group must identify the problem and state it clearly and concisely. The idea at this point is to understand and maintain a focus on the decision-making or problem solving process and its purpose.

The identification of a problem consists of not only describing it accurately, precisely and in detail but also addressing the possible gaps that exist between current perceptions of the situation and desired outcomes.

The following are four typical gaps that indicate a decision has to be made soon:

  • Something needs to be adjusted or corrected because a current method, procedure, action or practice is insufficient to produce the desired results.
  • Something needs to be prevented because of a possible threat or negative influence.
  • Something is appealing, engaging or interesting and needs to be acknowledged, received or accepted.
  • Something needs to be provided because an element seems to be missing, ignored or unidentified.

Step One: Brainstorming

To initiate effective brainstorming, group members should either individually or collectively write down possible solutions to the problem at hand with all alternatives objectively considered. It is important to brainstorm extensively in order to expand and build upon the ideas generated.

Once the brainstorming session has run its course, the group can begin classifying, categorizing, and prioritizing issues surrounding the problem. The goal is to create a hierarchy of issues and factors based on how essential each is to achieving a particular solution.

Step Two: Criteria

During this step, the group develops the criteria to evaluate possible alternatives for resolving the problem or situation. It is important to categorize criteria as either “essential” for a successful solution or simply “desired.”

When the criteria are being developed, the group should establish boundaries, acceptable alternatives and important values or feelings that need to be considered, as well as certain results that should be avoided.

Once ideas are generated, the criteria need to again be objectively considered. Important criteria should be categorized, with the group making a preliminary selection to be used throughout the process. It should be noted that these criteria will probably need to be modified as other important facts and information come to light.

Step Three: Fact Gathering

This step focuses on gathering information and facts that are relevant to making a decision. It is a critical component in clarifying the aforementioned perceived gaps.

Quality is more important than quantity when gathering information. Too much information can confuse and complicate the decision making process.

Brainstorming can again be used at this point. Facts should be classified and categorized so as to clarify the connection between various elements of information. The goal is to establish patterns and relationships among the facts.

All considered information must be analyzed in terms of the group’s problem statement and evaluation criteria; any non-pertinent facts should be eliminated. Relevant information and associated patterns should be prioritized by applicability to the problem at hand, and additional facts collected later if necessary.

The Procedural Stage

The group must actively develop, evaluate, and select alternatives and solutions to solve the identified problem.

Step One: Development

It is important to create alternatives over the entire range of acceptable options outlined in the contribution stage. At this stage the process needs to be free, open, and unconcerned with feasibility. This activity should ensure that nonstandard and creative alternatives are generated. Once again, the brainstorming technique can be used effectively, allowing participants to quickly record and share results without partiality and to use the input to develop additional alternatives.

A number of brainstorming methods such as “challenging assumptions,” the “random word technique,” and “taking another’s perspective” can be used to generate more creative alternatives. Alternatives that appear unworthy of further consideration need to be eliminated.

It is possible to categorize or classify alternatives and consider them as a group, but care should be taken not to create categories that are too complex, unmanageable or cumbersome. If the group shows dissatisfaction with the quantity or quality of alternatives under consideration, a break may be beneficial in order to renew the group and inject more objectivity and fresh insight into the process.

Step Two: Evaluate

A list of specific advantages, disadvantages, and interesting aspects for each alternative should be shared, discussed and recorded. After eliminating alternatives that are clearly outside the bounds and parameters of the stated criteria, these advantages and disadvantages should be considered in more detail.

An analysis of existing relationships among alternatives should also be completed, which can be done by asking, “Is an advantage of one a disadvantage for another?” At this point, serious consideration should be given to the relative importance of advantages and disadvantages.

Only those alternatives that the majority of the group considers to be relevant and correct should be given further consideration.

Step Three: Developing a Solution

For relatively simple problems, one alternative may clearly be the “best choice” solution. However, in more complex situations, combining several alternatives may be more effective. A distinct advantage of this process is that—if previous steps have been completed thoroughly and with attention to detail—selecting a solution becomes far less complicated.

Before completing this stage it is important to diagnose possible problems with the selected solution and determine the implications of these potential problems. This means asking the question, “What could go wrong and why?” When developing a solution, it is important to discuss the worst-case scenario that could come about if the solution is implemented.

The Implementation Stage

During this stage, a plan with which to put the selected solution into action is created. The plan must be highly detailed to allow for successful implementation.

Methods of evaluation must also be considered and developed. When developing a plan, the major phases of implementation are considered first, with steps necessary for each phase outlined. It is often helpful to construct a timeline and diagram the most important steps in the implementation process. “Backward planning” and task analysis techniques can be useful during this stage.

The plan should be implemented as carefully and completely as possible, with minor modifications often needed.

The Reflection Stage

The final decision making stage—reflection—is comprised of three steps.

Step One: Assess Implementation

Once initially undertaken, this step should be ongoing.
The group needs to decide how to determine “completeness of implementation” prior to evaluating the implemented solution’s effectiveness.

The fact that this step is often ignored or omitted is one of the main reasons decision making and problem solving processes fail: it often never becomes apparent that the selected solution is simply not being effectively implemented.

Step Two: Evaluate Solution’s Effectiveness

It is particularly important to evaluate outcomes in light of the problem statement generated at the beginning of the process. Affective, cognitive and behavioral results should also be considered, especially if they have been identified as important criteria. The solution should be judged according to its overall efficiency and impact on the people involved.

Step Three: Modification

When necessary, the solution should be modified according to suggestions generated during the previous step, as evaluation often brings additional problems to light that will need to be considered and addressed by the group. Issues identified that focus on implementation efficiency and effectiveness should be targeted.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about effective decision making techniques, refer to Intelligent Decision Making: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

with 5 comments

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem. Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur. An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about effective decision-making techniques, refer to Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

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