Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Mar 7 2011   10:05AM GMT

How to be a good decision maker

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

In the last piece I spoke about the importance of quick decision making and that just mulling over a decision and taking time leads us nowhere. Afraid of making a mistake, we sometimes try and avoid the situation. If, however, we take decisions and they turn out to be good ones, we would get going and not look back. Now, how does one become good in the decision making process?

Process of decision making

Let us look into what is involved in decision making. Decision is all about taking a stand on a particular issue and choosing ‘to do’ or ‘not to do’ a certain thing. At other times, it may have to do with a set of choices and for us to select one from them to go on with. In doing so we consider the best fit solution and also mull the consequences of selecting any of the other choices. But a selection we have to make, sooner than later, and if we don’t someone else will walk away with the cake leaving us high and dry.

Modes of decision making

There are various ways of taking decisions. The best way in many a cases is one which is based on facts and data. We collect all details and classify them into those which are in favor or against a particular choice. These work very well in cases where facts and figures are clearly available and more the data you have, the better the judgment would be.

There are cases, however, where data may not be available and therefore we may have to make choices on various other factors such as our principles, ethics, and so on. We sometimes take a particular step based on our intuition or based on our strong likes/ dislikes even though it may not sound logical. It is, therefore, important for us to understand where we are coming from, when taking decisions.

Elements of good decision making

Quality of our decisions rests a lot in the way we arrive at our conclusions. Let us look at a few factors that are ingredients of good decisions.

Well considered: When we study a certain issue with all seriousness and consider various aspects that speak in favor or otherwise and we apply our judgment based on the facts we have with us. It is not a choice made casually but one with a sense of responsibility.

Balanced and fair: We act as a judge and try to deliver a judgment which is fair and not biased either way. Here, we are true to ourselves and retain our sense of balance considering the right or wrong in making our choice.

Free from emotion: Decisions made with a level head where the heart doesn’t rule the head (except for cases involving human issues). Emotions often mar our judgment and we ignore logic and facts when arriving at a decision.

Ethical: It is important that we do things in a manner that is right and acceptable. So when exercising our choices, we keep ethics and good conduct as a part of our decision making process. We should connect to ourselves and not do anything that hurts our conscience or values we cherish.

Consider both from long term and short term: Depending on the situation and need, we need to take decisions based on the needs that are immediate or sacrifice the short terms needs in favor of long term goals.

We may sometimes make mistakes when taking decisions and on hindsight blame ourselves for being inadequate or incompetent. This may not be the right thing to do. Many years ago I was in a state of remorse after facing consequence of a decision that went wrong. It was my superior then who drew me aside and gave me valuable advice. He explained to me that we all take decisions that we think are right in the circumstances and which are based on the understanding that we have at those points of time.

So we should not wrong ourselves but take a lesson from the error and move on. This is where people often lose heart, shed their boldness and then start withdrawing from decision making or pass it on to the others. They vacate the center stage. We surely can do better and hold our head above water.

Related post: The importance of decision making

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