A Decision Dictionary of Labels Used For Decisions and Decision Making

Using a Decision Dictionary to Understand How We Describe Decisions and Decision Making

Source:  http://www.sxc.hu/profile/detstudioHave you ever been at a loss of words to describe how you feel about a decision or what you do or don’t like about the decision making process?  There are many ways to define or label a decision.  In my previous post, I listed many examples of labels we have used to describe and judge decisions and decision making.  What can we learn from describing decisions? What do they mean?  I created this decision making dictionary to share my thoughts on each one of these decision making labels.


The decision relied on individual preference or convenience rather than an established pattern of reasoning.  ‘Arbitrary’ seems to imply both individual preference and a lack of a pattern of reason.  For example, using a  “Magic 8 Ball” or a “Ouji Board” as a basis for making a decision could be seen as examples of a arbitrary decision making for selecting or choosing.  These tools would  not make sense since they represent a random choice as a basis for making a decision.


The decision reflects major choices that will have a significant impact once the decision has been made.


The decision is daring and fearless despite of the risks of significant and possibly negative consequences present if the choice is incorrect.


A willful election to utilize thought to arrive at a decision.  The term also seems to imply that the sub-conscious (unconscious) mind was not relied upon to make the decision because 1) the decision maker is aware of making a choice and 2) the decision maker is in control of the decision making as a active participant rather than a passive bystander or recipient.


There are opposing views about some element of the decision outcome or the decision making process.  Consequently either the choice made or the process adopted is now  disputed.  This term implies that these opposing views exist after the decision has been made and possibly represents an active external dispute or quarrel with the decision.  However one would expect (and hope) that during the decision making process, a healthy debate and discussion of opposing views occurred.   This reminds me of a famous quote by Alfred P. Sloan on decision making:

“If we are all in agreement on the decision – then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”  – Alfred P. Sloan


This particular decision is somehow linked to other subsequent decisions or events that may or may not occur based on this decision.   In terms of reaching an ultimate end objective or goal, this particular decision is paramount.  Making the right choice will ultimately dictate whether the goal or objective is achieved.


I think there’s more than one interpretation of the term ‘definite decision’.  One way to interpret this label is that it is obvious and clear to all parties that a choice or course of action taken was made as the direct result of the decision.   Alternatively, a definite decision could mean that the choices or alternatives evaluated as part of the decision are clearly defined and have precise boundaries so as to understand exactly what the decision shall entail.


The decision was not ‘accidental’, it was made ‘on purpose’.  On one level, the term deliberate decision seems to imply that the decision arose from a willful force to make a decision.  It was pre-meditated.   Deliberate decision is similar to the term conscious decision in that there is awareness of the decision, but with the addition of careful thought and consideration.  The term also implies that choice was made actively rather than a passive allowance to let external world or external circumstances dictate the choice. The deliberate decision came as a result of careful thought and action.


A strict interpretation of this term would imply that more than one person has responsibility for choosing.  A less strict interpretation would imply there is at least some notion of a balance in decision making power and authority even if one person is ultimately responsible for making the decision.  The term democratic decision also alludes to a participatory versus non-participatory process of decision making.


The decision making process required extra effort and thought perhaps because the decision was  large and complex with many participants, many alternatives, and a complex series of consequences to consider, or contained a high degree of uncertainty, subjectivity, or inability to collect and/or measure facts.


The decision itself either lacks any real meaning, significance or purpose. The decision appears trivial and/or the decision contradicts common sense.


The decision is viewed or regarded within a historical context of events.  The term is used when comparing this decision to other decisions or when comparing factors and events that contributed to the decision.


The impact of the decision is equitable to those whom the decision affects. The decision avoided any preferential treatment of one population at the expense of another.  A fair decision might not be a popular decision.


The decision can neither be appealed nor be vetoed or overturned against the decision maker.


The decision maker is resolved in their choice and will not reverse, change or second guess the decision.  Even if additional information is provided after the decision, the decision will not be reversed.


Two or more choices have very equal merit thus requiring additional analysis and/or subjective judgement to discriminate one choice versus the other.


The decision maker relied on criteria and underlying values that were genuine and truthful.  The decision making is ‘above board’.  Conversely, in a dishonest decision, the decision maker (and perhaps other participants involved in the decision making process) relied upon a set of secret and undisclosed underlying criteria and values that ultimately influenced the final decision unbeknownst to others.


A spontaneous decision that was made prematurely and perhaps unconsciously from the force of emotions.  This would seem to imply that ‘impulsive decision’ is an oxymoron in the sense that perhaps no alternatives were considered, rather the decision maker acted on the first thought that came to mind and is therefore more akin to instinct rather than decision.  I think the difference between and impulsive decision and a premature decision is that the impulsive decision probably lacked alternatives while the premature decision contained alternatives, but weren’t explored thoroughly enough.


The decision is known to carry great meaning and significance once a choice is made.


The the scale of decision is not trivial.  The consequences of the decision have a large impact.  Due to their scale, major decisions are also most likely important decisions, especially if the scale of the impact and consequences are known during the decision making process.


A decision that is both important and will be marked as key event in historical context.  However, at the time the decision was made, its importance might not be apparent.


Denotes either a deficient choice was made or deficient process utilized in making the decision.  A poor decision could also imply that the value or ‘merit’ assigned to the alternative selected contradicts reality or the opinion of experts outside the decision.  A poor decision could also reflect the lack of careful consideration of consequences from the choice made.  An uninformed decision is at risk of being a poor decision.  Likewise, a poor decision is at risk of also being a controversial decision and perhaps an unpopular decision.


The decision outcome was viewed favorably by many.  A popular decision might not reflect a fair decision.


A decision that was made without full consideration of all the alternatives and complete analysis of consequences  despite the fact that additional time and resources (to make the decision) were available for conducting further analysis.


Despite the fact that sufficient time was available to fully consider the decision.  The decision was deliberately made too soon and reflects a lack of caution and prudence, especially to considering the consequences of the decision.  A rash decision perhaps reflects the impatience of the decision maker.


No ideal alternative exists to choose that will completely satisfy the objective of the decision.  The decision was imperfect, contained tradeoffs that attempted to balance positive and negative consequences or the decision reflected a large amount of uncertainty.


The decision reflects a sufficient level of care, attention, time, and detail that is commensurate with the magnitude or importance of the decision.  It would also imply that the persons involved in the decision are qualified and competent to participate.


The value or merit of alternative chosen matches what is directly observable about that choice after the decision has been made.   Additionally, the expected positive consequences of the choice were realized while neither expected or unexpected negative consequences materialized.  A right decision probably an honest decision because the decision reflected mutually agreed upon values and criteria are congruent with the criteria and values actually utilized.  In other words, the decision aligned with the culture of the organization.


The decision was made with the overriding force of one or more moral principles that consequently determined the outcome despite the fact that another, possibly better, choice could have been made.


The decision making process that was utilized can be explained. The process included a sufficient amount of analysis and reasoning.  The decision making process minimized subjectivity and/or emotion.


When viewed after the fact, the decision reflected a practical weighting of the merits of the alternatives and a reasonable examination of possible consequences of each alternatives such that another prudent person making the same decision would have arrived at a similar conclusion.


Indicates that the decision carries grave consequences (such as life or death) in some or all of the alternatives considered.


The decision making was executed in a manner that permitted others, not directly participating in the decision making process, to view/witness some or all of the decision making.  The term also implies the virtue of full-disclosure by participants, thus a transparent decision is probably an honest decision.  Another interpretation might be if people outside of the decision are aware of the decision and its on-going deliberations,  then the decision might be characterized as transparent.


A large degree of judgement was required in weighing the facts and or weighing the liklihood of consequences or accepting the possibility of significant unknown and undesired consequences.  When the choices available for the decision are all unfavorable, we call it a ‘dilemma’.


When used in tandem with democratic decision, a decision whereby all participants voted for the same alternative.  The term could also be used to describe a consensus of opinion about the final choice by a decision making group, even though the final decision is the responsibility of one person.


The decision was made by a single person possibly without participation from others.  This term could have a negative connotation if the decision maker should have relied upon the thoughts, guidance and opinions of others during the decision making.  Additionally, if those affected by the decision lacked any voice to express their views and thoughts, then the decision will most likely be viewed as unilateral.

Uninformed decision

The decision was made without the benefit of any meaningful conscious thought, fact finding, selection of criteria, or evaluation of alternatives.  This might happen when someone makes a ‘gut choice’.  When this occurs, the decision maker relied upon unconscious, subjective and emotional processes to determine what ‘feels right’ in order make the final choice.

Wrenching decision

The decision involves significant emotional turmoil to the decision maker, perhaps due to a dilemma.  A wrenching decision implies that the decision maker knows that harm or negative consequences will occur as a result of the decision.  One would think that a military officer ordering soldiers to certain death from attacking a fortified enemy experiences a ‘gut wrenching decision’.

Wow, there’s a lot of ways to think about and describe decisions and decision making.  I hope that you found this review useful.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and interpretations.

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About Valerisys (Mike Gallo)

I'm a farmer. My crop is knowledge. I founded Valerisys Consulting to help organizations make better planning and budgeting decisions by helping them harvest knowledge from their own organization. As a senior analyst, project manager, division director, and CFO, I have harvested data to help clients gain better insights into their decisions, using the language of finance.

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