Improve Decision-Making Skills

Decision-MakerSuccessful team leaders must make sound decisions. Some will say that effective decision-making is a talent, and others will say that it is a skill set that can be learned and improved. Also, problem solving and decision make are related. We have to make many decisions in our everyday lives. Who could argue that learning or improving our decision-making skills will offer the opportunity to increase positive outcomes while decreasing the consequences of failure in a business context?

Important Skills

In a business or organizational context, it is important to have a basic decision-making model or process. A simple decision-making model could consist of as few as five (5) steps. For example, you could agree with your team that before you make any consequential decisions, you will consistently observe and complete the following steps:

  1. Identify the important values of all stakeholders
  2. Assess the potential or known risk, determine the likely outcomes and discuss the possible options
  3. Collaborate, communicate, negotiate and actively listen to the needs and concerns of all affected groups
  4. Define the time and task management assignments to ensure successful decision implementation
  5. Agree upon a date to review the results of the implementation and make the necessary corrections

Improving Decision-Making Skills

One of the simplest ways to improve decision-making is to institutionalize the process of a “postmortem”review of most important decisions. By elevating the process to a routine practice enables and encourages evaluation, analysis, and self-reflection that can be used to incrementally improve future decisions.

Certainly, improved decision skills will also come from the learning gained from experiencing the consequences of making poor decisions. However, for high value decisions with significant consequences, we would like to have developed these skills in advance to avoid disastrous outcomes to the extent possible. The goal is to improve our decision-making skills in an environment where the risk of significant negative consequences of poor choice is reduced or eliminated.

Evaluating Improvement

The first step is to realize that positive or negative results from a particular decision does not imply that the process was flawed. Keep in mind that some of the decisions may extend to a few weeks, a few months or even a few years.  So, it is not always possible to evaluate the efficacy of a decision quickly.

However, here are ten (10) indications that can be used to measure improvement:

  1. Use of failures as opportunities to learn
  2. Increased objectivity and use of information and evidence
  3. Routine use and improvement of a decision-making process
  4. Ability to use different techniques for different decision situations
  5. Increased ability to imagine and project possible consequences
  6. Measurement of progress toward long-term goals
  7. Successful forecasting of results from tests of decision-making skills with lower risk choices
  8. Evidence of consistently better results despite occasional failures
  9. Use of multiple decision-making strategies
  10. Growing influence and collaboration

Continuous Improvement

Decision making skills affect all organizational functions and are useful in any capacity for any organization. So, even when making small decisions, we can practice some techniques that will be beneficial in a larger context.

The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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