7 steps to an effective decision

Every business needs to fill its leadership positions with problem-solvers and decision-makers, which means anyone interested in reaching the upper levels of management needs to learn how to master these skills.

Fortunately, current and prospective business leaders have multiple avenues for practicing decision making to prepare for an important jump up their career ladders. Taking a decision-making biases online course will help any working professional gain a structured approach to making decisions by helping them recognize biases, blind spots and unjust judgements. In the meantime, professionals might start working through the seven steps of effective decision making, which can be useful in work and in life:

Step 1: Recognize the Problem

If there isn’t a problem, there isn’t a need for a decision. Sometimes, problems aren’t easy to identify; they might be better understood as a question or a potential concern. Regardless, business leaders need to be careful to identify the correct issue at hand before they start the decision-making process. Misidentification at this stage can mislead business leaders, causing them to make the wrong decision that has negative consequences for their organization. Leaders should call together anyone currently or potentially affected by the problem, so they can develop an accurate picture of what is occurring within the business.

Step 2: Gather Information

Information helps leaders better understand the problem and every possible solution, so they can make an informed decision that is more likely to lead to great success. As they did in recognizing the problem, leaders should speak to those affected by the issue. Leaders might also perform more robust research, like internal assessments, market research, consultant evaluations and more, if the problem is a significant one that has a profound effect on the business. However, such in-depth information gathering isn’t necessarily required for all decisions; leaders should try to avoid becoming bogged down in data, which could prevent them from making an effective decision.

Step 3: Identify Possible Solutions

Equipped with information, leaders are better able to outline possible solutions to the problem. Almost every problem, no matter how large or small, should have at least a few alternative solutions worth contemplating, and business leaders can again visit those most affected by the problem to find worthwhile answers. At this stage, any solution is worth considering; factors like expense and time horizon might be noted, but they shouldn’t yet be a reason for a solution to be dismissed or a decision made.

Step 4: Consider Any Evidence

Once leaders are satisfied that they have a few good solutions to select from, they should take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each option. It might be useful to look into records to determine what the organization (or other organizations like it) chose to do in the past, and talking to employees who will be affected by a given solution can also provide insight. Leaders should look for hidden evidence about any particular choice — hidden wins and hidden losses can be equally important evidence.

Step 5: Select the Solution

Now, leaders can make a decision. After all the effort of understanding the problem and researching potential solutions, leaders are finally equipped to choose a path forward. However, the decision is not the end of the process.

Step 6: Act

A decision should prompt some kind of action. Not all decisions require an organization to change; some decisions are to maintain the status quo. Still, leaders need to watch their decision unfold and pay close attention to the ramifications of their choice.

Step 7: Review the Decision

After an appropriate amount of time, leaders need to make the effort to review the decision. If the problem is totally resolved and a leader’s goals are met, the decision is an effective one, and no further action needs to be taken. However, if issues remain, leaders might need to engage in the decision-making process all over again — this time, with greater diligence in gathering information and considering evidence.

Making decisions isn’t easy, especially at higher levels of business. With practice, the process of making decisions steadily becomes more natural, so leaders should take every chance they get to work through the decision-making steps and arrive at the best possible course of action.