7 Steps to Improve Decision Making

October 27, 1995

I came across the following article on how to improve decision making. It was written for engineering managers, but I believe it should be applicable to all professionals. So, enjoy.

The typical engineering department manager makes hundreds of important decisions each year. Most of them can be made an the spot, as engineering managers follow precedents or instinct when making assignments, reviewing completed tasks, planning next projects, or handling personnel matters. Such instant judgments are firmly based an managers' knowledge of what works in their companies and with their staffs. Yet, as engineers gain broader responsibilities in their organization, this "spontaneous" style of decision making must give way to a more deliberate and disciplined approach.

Why? The higher up one goes in the organization, the more the decisions are made in areas where there are no clear precedents.

In an attempt to acquaint readers with an effective procedure for making such decisions, the accompanying seven-step program, based an the recommendations of Thomas Faranda, of Faranda Associates, Phoenix, Ariz is provided. Engineering managers can use this template each time they must make a decision for which there is no known precedent.

"It's important to have a disciplined process with five to fifteen steps you follow each time you make a major decision," Faranda advises. "This way, you'11 make better choices, as well as gradually build an your skills as a decision maker."

Faranda's template can be viewed as basic but in decision making this simplicity is a virtue. As Faranda explains, "What managers need is a uniform approach to their decisions that touches all the bases and avoids any potential oversights."

Through the consistent practice and application of the seven-step program, the approach eventually will become automatic and the engineering manager will begin to feel confident in the decision-making process, even when deciding the tough ones.

The Management Decision-Making Process

1. Define the problem.

2. Analyze the problem.

3. Develop alternatives.

4. Evaluate alternatives.

5. Select an alternative. 6. Implement the decision.

7. Follow up and check results.

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