For most people, making decisions is a difficult process.
In fact, we all have to make decisions all the time, ranging from trivial issues like what to have for lunch, right up to life-changing decisions like where and what to study, and who to marry.
Some people put off making decisions by endlessly searching for more information or getting other people to offer their recommendations.
Others resort to decision-making by taking a vote, sticking a pin in a list or tossing a coin.
In many ways, we have been programmed to make decisions.
What is Decision Making?
In its simplest definition, decision-making is the act of choosing between two or more courses of action.
In the wider process of problem solving, decision-making involves choosing between possible solutions to a problem. Decisions can be made through either an intuitive or reasoned process, or a combination of the two.
Intuition is using your ‘gut feeling’ about possible courses of action.
Although we talk about it as if it is magic, intuition is actually a combination of past experience and our personal values. It is worth taking our intuition into account, because it reflects our learning about life. It is, however, not always based on reality. It is also based on our perceptions, some of which may be clouded by specific trauma or childhood experiences.
It is therefore worth examining our gut feeling closely, especially if we have a very strong feeling against a particular course of action, to see if we can work out why, and whether the feeling is justified.
Reasoning is using the facts and figures in front of us to make decisions.
Reasoning has its roots in the here-and-now, and in facts. It can, however, ignore emotional aspects to the decision, and in particular, issues from the past that may affect the way that the decision is implemented.
Intuition is a perfectly acceptable means of making a decision, although it is generally more appropriate when the decision is of a simple nature or needs to be made quickly. More complicated decisions tend to require a more formal, structured approach, usually involving both intuition and reasoning.
We need to be able to implement our decisions, whether on a personal or organisational level. We need to be committed to the decision personally, and be able to persuade others of its merits.
What Can Prevent Effective Decision-Making?
There are a number of problems that can prevent effective decision-making.
1. Not Enough Information
If we do not have enough information, it can feel like we are making a decision without any basis.
Take some time to gather the necessary data to inform the decision, even if time is very tight. If necessary, prioritise information gathering by identifying which information will be most important.
2. Too Much Information
The opposite problem, but one that is seen surprisingly often: having so much conflicting information that it is impossible to make a decision.
This is sometimes called analysis paralysis, and is also used as a tactic to delay organisational decision-making, with those involved demanding ever more information before they can decide.
This problem can often be resolved by getting everyone together to decide what information is really important and why, and by setting a clear timeframe for decision-making, including an information-gathering stage.
3. Too Many People
Making decisions by committee is difficult. Everyone has their own views, and their own values. And while it’s important to know what these views are, and why and how they are important, it may be essential for one person to take responsibility for making a decision. Sometimes, any decision is better than none.
4. Vested Interests
Decision-making processes are often slowed down because of vested interests. These vested interests are often not overtly expressed, but may be a crucial blockage. Because they are not overtly expressed, it is hard to identify them clearly, and therefore address them. It can sometimes be possible to do so by exploring these vested interests with someone outside the process, but in a similar position.
It can also help to explore the rational/intuitive aspects with all stakeholders, usually with an external facilitator to support the process.
5. Emotional Attachments
People are often very attached to the status quo. Decisions tend to involve the prospect of change, which some people may find difficult.
Remember that “deciding not to decide” is also a decision.
6. No Emotional Attachment
Sometimes it’s difficult to make a decision because we just don’t care one way or the other. In this case, a structured decision-making process can help by identifying some very real pros and cons of taking particular actions, that perhaps we had not thought about before.
About Luis Soares Costa
From the very beginning, coaching has always been at the core of my passions.
For the past 38 years I have been an Executive and Team Coach working globally with CEOs and their C-Suite Executives, Business Owners and top talent in a significant number of the major global companies (including a significant number of Fortune 500), innovative companies operating in new ecosystems and dynamic family owned businesses.
During the past 28 years, I have also been an Executive and Team Coach and a “consultant to consultants” developing partners and top talent at major consultancies, Big4 Firms and Legal Firms
As an Executive and Team Coach, I partner with you and/or your teams in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires you to “connect the dots” and maximize your personal and professional potential. The aim of the partnership is to bring about a sustained behavioral and performance transformation and profoundly shift the quality of your and your team’s working and personal life, whilst maximizing your potential and generating sustainable value.
You can contact me at coach@LuisSoaresCosta.com and visit my Website at www.LuisSoaresCosta.com