Decision-Making: Process and Tools
Step Seven - “Clearly State and Evaluate
the Options” and
Step Eight - “Make and Implement the Decision”(SL#40)
by Wm. M. Pinson, Jr., Th.D. with Lloyd Elder, Th.D.
adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 10 - Decision-Making
State Clearly the Options or Alternatives--By
this time in the process, you should have a pretty good idea of possible
options or alternatives in the decision-making process. Write these
down. State them as clearly as possible. Don't limit yourself to
what you think will be the best alternative, but list all that surface in
thought, brainstorming, discussion, or whatever technique is used.
Use various techniques to discover as many options as possible. Later you
can determine those that are valid and those that are not. Think creatively.
Ponder possibilities outside the expected. Color outside the lines. Remember
that your final decision can be no better than the best alternative that
you have considered.
Evaluate the Options--Next,
eliminate the options or alternatives that are obviously unrealistic or
unfeasible and identify those that seem best in light of your values, objectives,
boundaries, and facts. Some of the options listed may clearly fall outside
of your basic values, objectives, and boundaries and can be eliminated.
The facts will help inform you of this.
Of those options remaining, carefully evaluate each one.
Various techniques can be employed to do this. Some people make a chart
of the possibilities, listing all of the pros and cons associated
with each. Matters considered in the pros and cons should include the effect
the alternative would have on a person's relation with God and others and
the effect the option would have on other persons or on the organization
It is reported that when making a decision, Benjamin
--put a decision/alternative at the top of the page,
--draw a line down the middle,
--on one side list all the reasons for,
--on the other, list all the reasons against,
--then evaluate the merits of making the decision.
Other factors to consider are costs, resources available,
time to implement, and the possible degree of resistance. In other words,
endeavor to consider every possible consequence of each possible option.
Mathematical projects and statistical
analysis may be helpful in some instances. In such cases
computers are valuable tools, speeding up the process. However, keep in
mind that computers are only tools and will do only what they are programmed
to do. They cannot determine values or goals. That is a human process.
Realize that there may be no perfect
option. Take time to evaluate carefully each alternative.
In some cases, certain tradeoffs are involved in reaching a final decision.
Disagreements are bound to arise in discussing these tradeoffs . . . even
if the disagreements are within your own thought processes. This is a sign
of a healthy process. In fact, Peter Drucker advocates that a decision
ought not to be made “unless there is disagreement.”
(Drucker, The Effective Executive, p. 148) The desire for harmony
is not bad in itself, but it can stifle creativity and result in persons’
holding back valid insights because they might stir controversy.
Make A Tentative Decision--If
time allows, make a tentative decision before going public
with it or acting on it. Then pray about it. See how it “feels.”
Sleep on it. Use your imagination to project how it will play out. Analyze
the risks and uncertainties involved. Of course, you can never anticipate
all of the variables and responses, but thoughtful reflection will often
provide a pretty clear picture of what the decision, when carried out, will
Ask yourself: “Is this decision really necessary?
Are the results anticipated in implementation worth the cost likely to be
involved--in time, money, relationships, and other factors? What other decisions
will this one likely lead to? Who should be involved in implementation?
What plans are needed for implementation?” Some decisions result in
a long-range or action planning process. (See SkillTrack®
Vol. 2, Mission-Centered Leadership.)
Make the Decision--Having
gone through the steps and taken time for a final analysis, make the decision.
Then full steam ahead! Sure, the decision might not be perfect--few if any
are--but you have done your best. Avoid second-guessing your decision; however,
endeavor to learn from the process of making and implementing it how to
make better decisions. A decision is not truly made until it is acted
Implement the Decision--Decision-making
does not end with making the decision--it must be acted on. Do what you
decide! Implementation determines to a large degree the effectiveness of
the decision. Implementation itself calls for a series of decisions:
Should implementation be delegated; if so, to whom?
Who should be informed about the decision?
In what order should persons be informed?
How should the decision be communicated?
Who should draft the decision if it is to be publicly
How will the draft of the decision be released?
- Decision Actions--To implement some
decisions, you may want to call into action six stalwart soldiers:
- Realize that there is not a single tough decision
that everyone will agree with. Resistance can be expected.
People may feel threatened or hurt. Some may feel that there is a better decision--and
that they can make it. Others may call for further study. A good decision
maker and implementer will endeavor to anticipate the nature of resistance
and opposition and the persons who most likely will react negatively. Armed
with this insight, a person should prepare to implement the decision in a
way to gain as much acceptance as possible.
- Develop a clear and solid rationale for the decision.
There are practical and tried ways to
assist the effectiveness of implementation--not just, “God told me to
do this” or “Do it because I am the one in charge.” Of course,
certain decisions do need to be acted on immediately by those responsible
for executing them, such as soldiers on a battlefield or firemen fighting
a fire, but generally persuasion is preferable to orders, commands, or coercion.
Enlist key persons to help you implement the decision. One reason to include
such persons in the decision-making process is so that they will be allies
and not enemies in its implementation.
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For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership