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

Step Seven

  1. 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.

  2. 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 involved.
      It is reported that when making a decision, Benjamin Franklin would:
      --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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Step Eight

  1. 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 mean.

    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.)

  2. 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 on.

  3. 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:
  4. Decision Actions--To implement some decisions, you may want to call into action six stalwart soldiers:
  5. 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.

  6. 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