How to Make a Decision – 7 Crucial Steps

​​These 7 crucial steps are a helpful general guide to making a decision.  There are many different kinds of decisions and not all of them will fit neatly into any decision making template, but this one can be adapted ​to suit ​your circumstances.  ​Taking these 7 steps involves asking yourself some key questions:

1. Whose decision is it?

Is this a decision that’s legitimately yours alone to make or:

  • Is this a decision to delegate or refer up?
  • Is collaboration called for – do others need to be involved in making the decision?​
  • Are you stepping in to make a decision that really belongs to someone else who lacks the confidence or courage to make it?  If so how could you support and encourage them?
  • Do you have the authority, competence and responsibility – is it relevant?

2. Consider the importance and implications ​

​​To gauge how much of your time and energy this decision merits, ask yourself some crucial questions:

  • Why is this important?  How wide ranging are the effects likely to be?  Will it set a precedent?
  • What is important about this decision – what really matters here?

3. What kind of decision is this? 

Stopping to consider this will help you choose an appropriate approach to making the decision.

While some decisions turn mostly on facts and information gathering, others are essentially questions of your values and ethics.  What’s the factual  v  values balance here?  They aren’t necessarily in conflict, but it’s important to have a sense of what you’ll base your decision on.

If getting information is ​is essential, what information do you actually need?  Avoid the ​compulsion to gather more and more information by identifying the key data you’ll look for and evaluate at the outset.

Does this decision fit within the context of a bigger decision?  Decisions can be like Russian dolls – the smaller one fitting within a bigger one and so on.  E.g. do I take this job or that job may refer up to what kind of career do I want (deciding which job is most likely to support that).  Your career aspirations​ may refer up to the even bigger question of the life style you want and ​ultimately what is most meaningful for you in your life!

​4.  Is it helpful (or essential) to consult someone?​

​Will you be depending on others to implement your decision or to help you carry it out?  Will others be profoundly affected by what you decide?  If so could it help bring them on board by consulting them?

Do you need the input of specific professional or expert advice?  Research who would be best qualified to give the advice you want and how to find them.  ​

​Is there someone with relevant / similar experience of the situation you’re in it would be helpful to talk to?

Would a constructive sounding board be helpful – someone you can trust to keep it confidential with no axe to grind who will help you think through your decision and get some clarity – consider talking it through with Decision Treehouse

​​5. How will you actually make this decision?

Time frames are usually helpful.  ​First get clear when you want to have made this decision. Avoid leaving it till the last minute when the pressure of a deadline could make it harder to consider the options constructively.  ​If possible give yourself enough time to gather any necessary information and to think it through.  Just enough time is more helpful than ‘as long as it takes’.  Not setting yourself a deadline or putting one too far away can loose focus and momentum.  Why risk paralysis by analysis or self sabotaging procrastination?

​If several people are to be involved in making the decision will it be made by majority vote, consensus, or by someone everyone else chooses to delegate the decision to? Get agreement on the procedure beforehand. Make it clear to others whether you’re consulting them about your decision or asking them to be involved in making it!

If you will have to account for ​the decision in some way consider how you will explain the process you took and justify what you decide.

There are many different approaches you could take, tools and techniques you can use, and models and processes you can follow.  No single one will be ​appropriate for all decisions!  So be prepared to experiment to discover what works for you with the decision you’re making now. ​It’s also valid to reflect on how you’ve made your best decisions in the past but not to rigidly repeat the same formula.

6. Recording, communication & implementation

Does a record need to be kept of the decision and how it was made?  If so what kind is necessary?  You may find it helpful ​just for your own ​reference, but if others are involved a record of the decision can help avoid misunderstandings and disputes!

What’s the most appropriate way of communicating the decision to those who need to know and who will be responsible for this?

If it’s not down to you alone, who will be responsible for implementing the decision?  Do they have the resources and / or back up they’ll need?​  If you want someone else to report back on progress have you made it clear how this is to be done?

7. Follow up – what to put in place

If the decision will take some time to implement it will probably be helpful to set some staging posts along the way to assess progress and adjust if necessary.

Is it important to have a ‘plan B’ in case things turn out very differently than you anticipate?  Although it pays to be decisive in implementing your decisions it can be wise to have a thought through alternative plan of action.  Circumstances can change radically or new information may come to light which call for flexibilty and a change of course.

If you want to improve your decision making how might you review and learn form this decision? Remember, although you are responsible for making your decision, you can’t be responsible for absolutely everything that follows from it – life is far too complex.  Obviously the outcome matters but the quality of a decision shouldn’t be judged purely by the results you get.

Instead of obsessing about getting it ‘Right’, focus on making the best decision you can in the circumstances!  Then focus on decisively implementing whatever you’ve decided.

If you want to make your decision with clarity and confidence talking it through ​could help – consider taking time to do this with Decision Treehouse ​- you can choose a convenient time now.

Back to Articles on Decision Making​