Manager Mint - 6 Steps to Effective Decision Making

“Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives’ decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake.”

-Peter Drucker


Lets take a look at this quote from Peter Drucker, who is said to be one of the founders of modern management.  Time and time again, the concept of making decisions or who should make the decision falls on upper management or the executive team. While this is a function of control for the company to ensure their strategies are being implemented, if they are the only ones empowered to make decisions, then it could be a costly mistake to the organization.

Through my experience, I have found that it is necessary to give others on your team the authority to make choices and decisions for themselves under certain guidelines. This meaning that there are just certain things you cannot do, for instance, in retail, a sales associate cannot tell a customer no, but is instructed to say something along the lines of,  “let me get a manager.” While little limitations such as this example are few and far between, at least where I have managed, its best to encourage decision making and coach your associates into making the right ones. This can be done by teaching some form of the decision making process.

1.     Understand the problem fully by identifying and diagnosing it.  You must recognize that a problem exists. Ask questions such as “What specific goals should be achieved?” or ”What is actually happening and what should be happening?”” What are your goals for solving this problem?”

2.     Generate solutions. This stage is where you connect the bridge between understanding you have a problem and where you start to develop alternative courses of action to solve to the problem. Most Decision Makers first look for“ready-made solutions” or ideas or advice they have tried before, however for unique issues, a one-size fits all solution will not suffice and a custom made solution will be necessary.

3.     Evaluate alternatives. At this stage you are determining which of the solutions you created will work best. Does you solution align with your goals from the first stage?

4.     Making the choice or picking the best solution. This is the stage that scares most managers. This is due to the fact that no one wants to make the wrong decision because they are afraid they will make the wrong one and either gets fired or worse fail at something, so I want to elaborate a little here. If you are going to be a great manager or entrepreneur or CEO or whatever title you are looking for, you will never get there if you cannot make decisions. One of the biggest traits of top-level executives is their ability to make decisions without fear of it being the wrong one due to analyzing the risks. Most companies look to maximize their results by getting the best possible outcome with the lowest negative consequences.

5.     Implement the decision. Once you have picked one of your solutions it becomes time to implement it. Nothing will happen unless you get the wheels turning. This could be personally putting the solution into effect or by delegating the task.

6.     Evaluate the choice or decision you made. This is the last stage. Collect data or information that informs you on how well your solution worked and solving your problem. If you don’t continue to evaluate your solution you will not know if you picked the right one. Whether the information you receive is positive or negative, you are ultimately looking for whether decision you implemented should be revised or if it is working as planned. If the solution did not work then start back at stage one.

Lastly, one phrase I learned in my early years, as a manager is that “It is better to ask for forgiveness, than for permission.” I like this phase because it empowers individuals to make the right choices and to develop their creative and problem solving skills.