10 Qualities of Good Decision Making
People use a variety of terms to describe decisions. Some of these terms (discussed previously) relate to the decision itself while other labels we use relate to the quality of the decision making process. So it would seem from this (non-scientific and incomplete) list that people have some definite idea about the qualities of decision making whatever that decision might be. I’ve identified 10 qualities of good decision making.
What are the 10 Qualities of Good Decision Making?
- Purpose. Can we explain why a decision was made? What was the purpose of the decision in the first place? Sometimes the reason or purpose is clear, such as the decision to hire a new employee to help out overburdened staff. Other times, it is not apparent why a decision has been made. For example, implementing a new policy in the organization. When decisions are made to solve problems, we want to know that the decision is addressing a root cause, not merely a symptom.
- Rationality. Can we describe how the decision was made. Can we demonstrate that the decision was not arbitrary? For important decisions, with a large impact on people, we want to know that careful thought was used to make the decision.
- Relevancy. Can we articulate the criteria used to discriminate the alternatives of the decision? Were those criteria fair, relevant and known to all who participating in the decision making process? The fairness of the decision process will depend on whether the criteria used to make the decision are disclosed.
- Transparency. Can we explain how the criteria were weighted or scored or how the criteria influenced the decision? Our ratings are driven by our underlying values, the things that are important to us. Does our weighting or scoring reflect reasonable values or do they reflect a rationalization of other values that were not disclosed?
- Comprehensiveness. Can we demonstrate that we adequately explored alternatives for consideration? How thorough were the consequences of each alternative explored? Some decisions are never going to be ‘right’. Regardless of being right or wrong, at least we’d like to know that a broad set of options were explored and reasonable care was taken to consider the consequences of each.
- Authenticity. Did we honestly evaluate the alternatives with an open mind? Did we already make a choice and then use the decision process to rationalize or legitimize our selection? Deciding first and then asking people to ‘punch holes’ in the logic of the decision is not decision making. At that point, it is merely a debate and perhaps an indication of an autocratic leadership style.
- Inquisitive. To what extent did we solicit others to participate in the decision making to provide knowledge, experience, and expertise to increase the credibility of the decision? To what extent were the views of those either affected by the decision or those who are responsible for executing the decision considered? Not all decisions are going to appear to be fair when some groups are affected disproportionately by the decision. We like to at least know that the views of those most affected by the decision were heard and considered. While it doesn’t necessarily take a team to vote on a decision, it makes sense to have a team participate in the decision making process to increase the chances of finding and selecting the best alternative or solution.
- Economy. Was the time and resources consumed by the decision making process commensurate with the magnitude and importance of the decision? Are we over-analyzing smaller problems and decisions that should perhaps be delegated? For really important decisions with a large impact, are we taking the appropriate amount of time to analyze the decision?
- Resolve. If decision making process included the previous eight qualities, then the next quality we’d like to see is some degree of firmness or resolve. We dislike decision makers who hesitate to make a decision. We really hate situations where a course of action is undertaken after a decision has been made only to have the effort discarded because the decision maker changes their mind. Some might (dis)affectionately call these “mid-course corrections”.
- Best Value. If the alternatives have an economic cost, we want to know that if the least expensive option was selected, it didn’t sacrifice features and merits we view as important. If the most expensive option was selected, we want to know that the features and merits justify the the extra cost.
Wow. This looks like a pretty daunting list to consider when making a decision. I’ve identified 10 qualities of good decision making, but the list could have easily been larger. I think the key point is that this list is used with appropriate moderation. The bigger the decision, the more important it becomes to think about all these qualities.
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