Build your Skills: Decision-Making

In my organisational experience, I noticed that one of the most complex skills to master is Decision-Making. This even though anecdotal evidence tells that each of us takes many decisions every day. Some decisions might be easy to take. What to eat for lunch, where to go over the weekend, which blog to read next…

At work, however, things often look different. For sure, an impact can be due to some issues in the operational governance model of your organisation. Unclear rules, not formalised delegation, blurry roles definitions, unset escalation routes, all these aspects may hinder or stall your decision-making process. 

In many cases, organisational absences are an alibi. Many managers tend to avoid or delay decision making also in areas entirely within their scope of work. Why? 

There can be multiple reasons. However, from my experience, many people have not been taught how to make decisions. 

Very often, we identify Decision Making as a Process. If you look at it this way, there are multiple places where decisions can be stuck. There are many alternative models here, but the one that I prefer is organized around a 6 step process.

  1. Establish a positive decision-making environment
  2. Generate potential solutions.
  3. Evaluate the solutions.
  4. Decide.
  5. Check the decision.
  6. Communicate, Implement, Verify.

The structure itself of these six steps is its limit. Identifying decision-making as a process makes people think that sound decision-making needs to be done as a sequence of steps. Which is not the case: we often take most of our decisions skipping entirely some elements of the process above, very much influenced by our decision-making style

Decision-Making Styles

Classic research from the eighties, by Rowe and Boulgarides, had identified four decision making styles, crossing three dimensions: Cognitive Complexity, Reasoning Style, Values orientation. They had also included a differentiation between “Leaders” and “Managers” that, however, I find a bit forced.

Fig.1: Decision-making style models. Source: Rowe, A. J., & Boulgarides, J. D. (1992). Managerial Decision Making. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

In any case, as displayed in Fig.1, we can trace four main decision-making style.

  1. Directive Decision-Making Style
    People who use a Directive Decision-Making style, tend to act rapidly, they tend to structure the information they know often applying intuition, without necessarily liaising with others to obtain more information. They tend to focus on the short term task and are sometimes perceived as authoritarian.
  2. Analytic Decision-Making Style
    People who use an Analytical Decision Making stile, tend to enjoy the process of problem-solving, evaluating multiple scenarios, interacting with others to assess alternatives. Focusing much analysis, they tend to take more time in making decisions and sometimes can come up as “indecisive” as they tend to consider multiple scenarios.
  3. Conceptual Decision-Making Style
    People who use a Conceptual Decision-Making style tend to possess a broad look and be creative. They are people-focused; thus, they reflect also on the perception of the decision. They focus on the long term and always try to conceptualize, sometimes through illustrative scenarios and storytelling, their choices. 
  4. Behavioural Decision-Making Style
    People who use a Behavioral Decision-Making style are also oriented on people and tend to organize meetings to take decisions, often trying to socialize the decision itself. 

None of the styles above is necessarily “good” or “bad”, and there are also alternative theories on decision-making styles, some more aligned to some inner personality traits. Whatever tool you use, it is essential that you try to understand where you are positioned in the scheme and realize the advantages of each style, and also its pitfalls.

How can I develop Decision-Making in others?

As a manager, this is often the most challenging question. Delegation and Autonomy are critical components for enabling a culture that pushes people to decide on their own. Also, as a manager, you need to understand what style your team members adopt so that you can guide them in identifying black spots and develop more support.

Assisting people on doing a retrospective analysis of their decision is also great, especially if the focus is not to establish who is at fault in a choice, but rather to enable a more efficient or faster decision making process.

Without a supportive culture within an organisation, it’s challenging to unleash true decision-making potential. From my experience, people that are good at this tend to leave pretty quickly organisations that don’t give room to their expression.

Let’s check this up 

Let’s do a pulse check on how you are personally doing on Decision Making. Think about the last week at work or at home, how many of the following statements are true?

  • I took at least one difficult decision at work.
  • I took at least one difficult decision at home.
  • I’ve spoken to some colleagues to evaluate alternative course of actions before making a decision.
  • I’ve allocated time on my agenda to evaluate the information I had available and make a decision.
  • I did invest time in setting up different alternative scenarios, and then evaluate each for potential outcomes.
  • I did take time to evaluate how I could measure the success of my decision.
  • I have dedicated time to monitor the outcome of my decision.
  • I have communicated the reasons for the decision to my colleagues / my family.
  • I regretted a decision I have taken and analysed the reason that led to making the wrong decision.

And you? How good are you at Decision Making?

What Skills for the Future of Work?

This post is part of a series of articles on Skills and Competencies to succeed in the Future of Work. Read the main article, and access all the other available posts.

Cover Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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Sergio Caredda

Digital Knowmad | Multipotentialite | HR Leader | Transformation Agent | Future of Work thinker | On a mission to re-embed Human into HR.

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Sergio Caredda

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