Decision-making is usually an intuitive process. We are defined by the choices we make, and every time we make a choice, we are, in effect, making a decision.
You feel hungry, and you 'decide' to eat food. You feel lonely and 'decide' to talk to your family members or friends.
In case you are worried about not completing a project on time, you 'decide' to seek a time extension from your client.
As you can see in the above scenarios, whenever we take action, we are making a decision.
What is decision-making?
Let's say you are the CEO of a major corporation. Your last product was a bestseller, but now your competition is catching up. The market share of your product has been declining year-on-year. You need to make a decision: either you reduce the price of existing products or you launch a new product. What would you do?
Business decisions like this are usually complex and require you to weigh multiple factors. Often, more than one option seems attractive and appears to be a good choice. Your job is to analyze the potential outcome of each choice and think deeply about what will be better for your business in the long-run.
Making decisions can be an elaborate process. There are many factors that impact our decision-making processes.
The factors of decision-making:
Before we learn how to make decisions, it is important to learn about these factors:
Level of knowledge:
You might be required to take a decision on a matter about which you don’t have adequate information.
Multiple layers of the decision:
Sometimes, a decision might appear to be easy, but there could be numerous consequences that you may have to think through. These factors would require you to conduct deep analysis and undertake thorough due diligence.
In the world of business, a good decision can reap rich dividends, but a wrong decision could spell trouble. A lot is at stake when it comes to big deals, overhauls, and other decisions that are made with an eye on the long-term. Therefore, the decision-maker may feel that they are under pressure.
Before making any decisions, we need to evaluate all available options and compare their pros and cons, challenges, and long-term impact. Sometimes, a choice might make short-term financial sense but it might alter the company’s image in the market in the long-term. Often, we are faced with options that present the easy way out but are morally questionable. These are tempting, but it is important not to traverse these paths that go against the premise of ethical decision-making.
How to make better decisions
Successful people have often mastered the art of ethical decision-making. Despite making a lot of decisions daily, we remain unmindful of the techniques and habits that give us the ability of ethical decision-making.
Let’s take a look at some of the steps that will help you learn how to make decisions that benefit in the long run:
Document your concerns:
The best way to make every process systematic and easier to review is to keep a log or journal of the process. This stands true for the process of ethical decision-making as well.
Imagine you receive a great job offer but it requires you to relocate to a city far away. The climate and culture in the new city are going to be different from your current location.
You don't have any friends or family in the new city and are apprehensive of accommodation, commuting, and food choices in the new location.
Documenting all those concerns in a journal and then applying thought to finding solutions for each of the problems will allow you to make better decisions.
Be aware of the worst-case scenario:
When we make a decision, we have a fair idea of the steps that we need to take to reach our goals. However, things rarely go perfectly according to plan.
Therefore, a smart decision-maker takes into account things that might go wrong. Let’s say you are flying from Delhi to London via Dubai. You have booked your flights such that your plane arrives in Dubai from Delhi at 9 pm local time, and your connecting flight to London is at 10.30 pm local time. Your flight from Delhi is delayed by an hour. What will you do in the worst-case scenario i.e. if you don’t make it in time for your connecting flight to London from Dubai? You need to be aware of any such potential unforeseen setbacks.
Sometimes, making decisions requires due diligence and evaluation of data and facts. Even when the responsibility of taking the decision rests with you, expert advice might be needed. Such scenarios are common in the world of business, especially while taking calls on high-stakes acquisitions, mergers, or collaborations.
Whenever the need arises, don’t hesitate to take advice from the right people.
Staying calm and composed:
Decision-making can often bring you face-to-face with challenges, adversities, and people who can be draining on mental peace. However, a good decision-making ethic requires you to stay calm and in control of the situation.
This ensures that you never lose sight of the objective behind the decision and remain focused on your goals.
The success of any decision lies in the thought given to it. If you hastily jump to conclusions without obtaining the right information or understanding, you are likely to fail.
Having adequate information about the subject gives you the power to make a well-informed decision and eliminates any shocks or surprises that impulsive decision-making might lead to.
Constantly ask ‘why’ during the decision-making process:
Self-analysis and questioning your own choices is often critical to ethical decision-making.
Let’s say you are doing a full-time and a part-time job simultaneously and burning the proverbial midnight oil. In such a scenario, you need to ask yourself questions such as:
Why am I doing all this? (The answer to this question might be, ‘Because I want to earn more money.’)
Why am I working late, night after night? ‘Because I am doing a part-time job which needs me to work late.’
By constantly asking 'why’, you are likely to get a better understanding of your decision. If you don't get convincing answers, then perhaps your decision isn't a good decision.
Assess the impact:
It is important to do a thorough impact analysis of your decision. How does your decision impact the business and other people?
For instance, you might be considering automating processes that currently require manpower. In that case, not only do you need to assess the financial value addition of such automation, you also need to take a close look at whether your employees are ready for it.
Look at all the options:
If you want to buy a vehicle, you’re unlikely to just walk into a car dealership and buy the first car you see. You will assess your needs, preferences, and budget. Then, you will proceed to do a comparative analysis of several car models in the category before making your choice.
Similarly, every decision at the workplace should also be taken only after an evaluation of all aspects and options.
Prepare Plan B:
No matter how well-thought-out your decisions are, it can never be guaranteed that everything will go according to plan. An employee oversight, a delay in supply of information, a technical failure, or an unforeseen crisis can derail the best-laid plans.
Therefore, always have a Plan B. Work on a backup plan that lays down the steps to take in adverse situations.
Listen to your instincts:
No matter how much information you have, there are times when logic, data, and experiences are at odds with what your intuition or “gut” says.
The sixth sense or gut-feeling is a real thing. If you analyze your thoughts rationally and focus on ethical decision-making, you will realize that your heart is usually in sync with the most appropriate decision in the circumstances. Therefore, it would not be imprudent to rely on your intuition to guide you when everything else doesn’t.
Making decisions is an integral part of a professional journey. We regularly make numerous small and major decisions that impact many people in many ways. While there is no sure-shot formula that will enable you to make a good decision every single time, there are programs such as Harappa Education’s Making Decisions course that can enhance your decision-making skills. This online learning course teaches learners various techniques for taking sound and smart decisions. You can enroll for this course to transform your decision-making skills in a short span of time.
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