Making a Successful Decision
To be successful a decision must have:
· Rational quality – to the extent that there is a difference between the available choices it will be important that the alternative offering the most benefit is chosen.
· Commitment to implement – to the extent that the commitment of the people involved is necessary for effective implementation, it will be important to gain that commitment.
When choosing who to involve in making a decision, you should consider who can contribute to requirements for quality and commitment. Although most managers give overriding consideration to achieving a high quality decision, more decisions probably fail through lack of a real commitment to follow them through and make them work.
The decision making process described here is ideal for use individually or with a group.
Because it offers a clear and logical approach to selecting a high quality decision while actively involving the group in the decision making process it is also excellent as a means of gaining group commitment.
Every decision will contain three elements:
· objectives – or the things we wish to achieve as a result of the decision;
· alternatives – or the choices available to us;
. risks – or the uncertainty that a particular alternative will actually deliver the objectives we want or has unplanned side effects.
The ideal decision maker will be someone who clearly identifies his objectives, creatively generates new choices or ways of meeting those objectives, and is prepared to make choices involving risk where the benefit/risk pay-off of a choice makes it the most appropriate solution. However, our flesh and blood manager frequently behaves very differently from the ideal model.
Typically he\she adopts an approach which may be called incremental analysis in which he\she moves a minimum distance from the existing situation when change is required.
First he\she may have no clear idea of his objectives. Rather he\she finds that something has gone wrong and he\she simply wishes to get out of trouble or make some improvement. Thus he\she is looking for an acceptable rather than the best solution.
Next he\she may have spent little time creatively generating new approaches with the result that the choices available to him only represent small changes to the existing situation.
Finally, he\she may not be working in an environment in which risk taking is encouraged. Too many people may have an investment in the current situation and be unwilling to exchange it for the uncertain future associated with a significantly different approach.
The process for decision making discussed helps to overcome these difficulties because it is structured in the following way. It starts with a discussion of the objectives (rather than an argument over the alternatives). By doing this we can:
· improve understanding of what an ideal solution could achieve;
· generate commitment to more than a minimum solution;
· avoid the politics of ‘hidden objectives’ because every individual knows that an undeclared objective will not be available to give weight to his choice at a later stage.
Following agreement on the objectives, a brainstorming session can take place to creatively generate new solutions or choices if this appears appropriate (i.e. existing choices appear lacking in some respect). The brainstorming can be creative and avoid criticism because it is understood that evaluation against objectives is the next step.
After alternatives have been generated they are scored against each objective in turn with the purpose of finding the maximum overall benefit (achievement of objectives). This avoids the ‘information overload’ and fruitless argument that can result from a direct overall comparison of alternatives against each other.
Having identified the alternative which offers the best overall benefit we then evaluate that alternative for risks. What are the unknowns and what could go wrong if that choice were adopted? If the alternative offering the best benefit also has significant risk, then other alternatives must be evaluated and the one offering the best risk/benefit pay-off chosen. This allows an open discussion on the level of risk people are prepared to accept.