Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Six Step Approach to Decision Making

Harvey, T.R., Bearley, W.L. & Corkrum, S.M. (2001). Core steps in decision making. In The practical decision maker: A handbook for decision making and problem solving in organisations. (pp. 17-34). Lanham & London: The Scarecrow Press.
I really enjoyed this reading. It made a lot of sense to me. It describes a six step process for approaching 'problems' in an organisation.
1. Mind set
I love this bit! Change your language to call the problem an 'opportunity' or a 'challenge', or even a 'situation that needs attention'. This will get you in the right head space for creative thinking.
Also, know your context. An organisation with a clear sense of vision and mission has a firm foundation on which to make decisions. Is that your circumstance? A trusting and supportive environment is more conducive to group problem solving. Does that describe your organisation? What are the parameters, or 'givens' of the situation, such as resources or legal requirements, which may effect decision making? Who are the 'stakeholders' in the situation? Are there any potential conflicts?
2. Problem Definition
There must be a clear understanding of the 'problem' by all stakeholders. You may need to determine the gap between expectations and existing conditions, clearly define a new opportunity, clearly define a new outcome, or set clear goals to move towards a vision.
3. Solution Criteria
This is a new idea for me, and I can clearly see its value. Here you must come up with a list of criteria that describe a 'good solution', including both MUST and SHOULD criteria.
4. Possible Solutions
Generate as many possible solutions as you can, and determine any consequences they have.
DO NOT MAKE ANY JUDGEMENTS AT THIS STAGE!!!
5. Solution Choice
Evaluate the possible choices against the solution criteria that you have written. This is wonderful - you have a clear and unbiased way of evaluating solutions! Your best solutions satisfy all of the MUST criteria, most of the SHOULD criteria, and have the fewest consequences. You may have to combine two or more ideas, or even 'go back to the drawing board'.
6. Implementation
Identify the steps required to implement the solution, the resources required, who will do what, and how progress will be measured.
After this process has been worked through, you should evaluate both the solution itself, to see if it is working, and the decision making process. Also, see if the solution is applicable to any other 'problems'.
As I said, to me this is a straightforward and practical process to put in place. What do you think?

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