5 ways to make a decision

Have you ever suspected that you are being asked for your opinion on something when the decision has already been made?

Have you ever asked your team to make a decision and when they do, you realise you can’t possibly support it?

What about when the loudest, most senior or most aggressive person in the room always seems to swing the decision their way?

Sometimes the decision making process works well, is transparent and understood by those involved and leads not only to better decisions but also generates trust. More frequently the opposite is true.

Knowing the 5 basic types of decision will help you consciously chose the right process and communicates your reasons for that choice, depending on elements such as timescales, levels of authority, and where the relevant information is held.

Autocratic – You have all the information you need so you make the decision by yourself.

Consultative – You involve others by asking for their suggestions, ideas and recommendations and then you decide.

Consensus – You involve others by generating and evaluating ideas and alternatives and reach a decision by consensus.

Delegated – You determine that another person or group holds the information and the ability to make the decision so you delegate it to them and support the decision they make.

Democratic – You are part of a group that in which decisions are made by a majority vote.

Bearing in mind there is no right way; each type of decision is effective in different circumstances:

  • How do you decide the best approach for different situations?
  • What is your experience of decision making in your organisation?
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12 Responses to 5 ways to make a decision

  • Interesting observation, I think even logical decisions wud still not be void of personal judgment, most decisions always occur within a context hence we always at times mix all these. We make some decisions under conditions of certainty and others under conditions of uncertainty. However those are the basic decision making approaches!

    • Hi Bernard. Thanks for expanding the discussion. I totally agree with you. When delivering on Emotional Intelligence, decision making and the point you make, are the kind of examples I use. ie. if you have ever used a “logical, rational’ decision making process and then skewed the outcome to fit what your gut is telling you, then you will recognise that all kinds of personal feelings and judgements impact our decisions.

  • Love that you brought out the topic of ways to make decisions. Based on reading research from various people who make their living looking into the subject I know that circumstances often help define what model is best to use in making a decision. Vroom-Yetton-Jago is one I like http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_91.htm

  • Things would be much simpler if decision making were an exact science. It is not. Case in point in Star Trek IV Spock had to guess. Guessing is a foreign concept to the Vulcan mind. Sometimes one guesses and hopes for a favorable outcome.

    • Hi Garth. Yes it would be much simpler if decision making were an exact science. Maybe simpler again if we were all as logical as Mr Spock. Thank goodness we are fallible, complex human beings who can also draw on our emotional intelligence to make more complex but I would argue even more effective decisions.

  • Good Morning Julie! I just admit, when I first read the title of the post, I would not have been able to name all 5 🙁 But now I can! Thanks for the perspective. Have a great day.

  • I think that in order to make the best decision it is appropriate to gather as much information as possible including positive and negative consequences, how that decision will benefit the productivity of the team. Asking for some opinions from serious people might give a better picture on the decision to make.

    • Thanks for expanding on the options available Anderson. How much time you spend gathering info. will of course depend on the aspects highlighted in the article such as urgency, levels of authority and knowledge etc.

  • Dear Julie, excellent summary.
    Decision processes are often really not easy to handle. I remember that I made mistakes in consultative processes: As a boss it is important that you ask your employees for their opinion before you mention what your opinion is. Several times I srewed it and mentioned my opinion first. Doing that I am sure I lost valuable information and feedback. The reason for it: If you tell your thoughts firstly some employees may get biased by your opinion or they may even become afraid to tell you what they really think. That is not really what you want.

    • I agree totally Bernd and have seen the same thing happen quite often. Staff can find it very difficult to express a different and / or opposing view once the boss has given theirs. Then you can end up with a group of “yes men” who just tell you what they think you want to hear. On the other hand, it is damaging to trust if you ask your team for their input and it then becomes clear that you are going through the motions and have already made the decision yourself. From what you say about losing the opportunity for valuable information that you only consult the team when you genuinely want their input.

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