Decision making process starts with defining options, gathering information and evaluating alternative solutions.
Using a stepwise process helps you to evaluate necessary information and possible alternatives to reach a decision that is well-thought. This approach makes it possible to reach most satisfactory alternative.
Step 1: Identify the decision
Try to clearly define the nature of the decision you must make. Setting a time scale is also important. Make sure you meet the deadline for making a decision. Is there an advantage in making a quick decision? Will spending more time improve the quality of the decision? This first step is very important.
Step 2: Gather relevant information
Collect some pertinent information before you make your decision: what information is needed, the best sources of information, and how to get it. This step involves both internal and external “work.” Some information is internal: you’ll seek it through a process of self-assessment. Other information is external: you’ll find it online, in books, from other people, and from other sources.
If there is inadequate or outdated information then it is more likely that a wrong decision might be made. If there is a lot of irrelevant information, the decision will be difficult to make, and it will be easier to become distracted by unnecessary factors. You therefore need up-to-date, accurate information on which to make decisions.
Step 3: Identify the alternatives
As you collect information, you will probably identify several possible paths of action, or alternatives. You can also use your imagination and additional information to construct new alternatives. In this step, you will list all possible and desirable alternatives.
Step 4: Weigh the evidence
Draw on your information and emotions to imagine what it would be like if you carried out each of the alternatives to the end. Evaluate whether the need identified in Step 1 would be met or resolved through the use of each alternative.
It is possible to compare different solutions and options by considering the possible advantages and disadvantages of each. One good way to do this is to use a 'balance sheet', weighing up the pros and cons (benefits and costs) associated with that decision. Try to consider each aspect of the situation in turn, and identify both good and bad.
Step 5: Choose among alternatives
Once you have weighed all the evidence, you are ready to select the alternative that seems to be the best one for you. You may even choose a combination of alternatives. Your choice in Step 5 may very likely be the same or similar to the alternative you placed at the top of your list at the end of Step 4.
Step 6: Take action
You’re now ready to take some positive action by beginning to implement the alternative you chose in Step 5.
Step 7: Review your decision & its consequences
If possible, it is best to allow time to reflect on a decision once it has been reached. It is preferable to sleep on it before announcing it to others.
You may get to this stage, and have a clear ‘winner’ but still feel uncomfortable. If that is the case, don’t be afraid to revisit the process. You may not have listed all the pros and cons, or you may have placed an unsuitable weighting on one factor.
Your intuition or ‘gut feeling’ is a strong indicator of whether the decision is right for you and fits with your values.
Having made the decision...
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, once you have made a decision, don’t waste your time thinking about ‘what ifs’. If something does go wrong, and you need to revisit the decision, then do. But otherwise, accept the decision and move on.