8 Steps to Good Decision Making

8 Steps to Good Decision Making

Master this process, and you'll ensure the decisions you make have the best chance of being good ones

Strong leaders are problem solvers. Sometimes, when confronted with a problem, our expertise and experience isn't enough to find a clear-cut solution immediately. But leaders don't avoid or defer the tough issues; they address them head on, and clearly make the decisions to resolve them.

To find a clear way of solving problems, here are 8 steps to good decision making.

Step 1. Identify and define the problem

Once you've identified a problem, you need to understand what you are trying to solve. In order to do this effectively, first, you have to understand what the real issue is. Make sure there is clarity about the problem or opportunity. Putting everything on the table will give you a clear path. Be as specific as possible. Separating everything into parts will let you see that the problem might be not as big or unmanageable as you thought.

Step 2. Decide who is accountable

Here is where delegation comes into place. When you’re in front of an issue and a decision needs to be made, ask yourself - is this an area where you need to make a decision or you are a resource for someone else who is accountable? If the latter, who is accountable? Should you make the decision yourself, or can you mentor and empower someone on your team to make the decision now and similar decisions in the future?

Step 3. Seek information

If you need to make the decision, then the next thing you do is actively listen. This is the stage of decision making where you listen to a number of sources. The individuals, including all the critical stakeholders, impacted by the decision, you listen to data, you listen to external factors, competitive factors, and all of those elements that could influence the outcome.

Step 4. Evaluate data and generate alternative solutions

Once you've listened, and processed the data, the next stage is evaluation. In many ways this is the most difficult stage. What makes it so hard is that you have to keep an open mind, you have to check your ego at the door; you have to become more rational, less emotional. You cannot get wedded to your own solutions. When possible, you should try to actively generate and evaluate alternative solutions (Studies suggest that up to 5 alternates are helpful; more choices can overwhelm us). This helps you keep an open mind to the concept that there just could be other and possibly better ways to achieve the desired outcome.

Step 5. Make the decision

There's a special factor you need to take into consideration in making decisions. And that is intuition, your gut. To achieve success you need to have good judgment, good experience, and a good intuitive sense about the people in your business.

When your intuition really tells you something isn't right, then you may need to go back to the process and either get more data or more perspectives. If you go back to seek this kind of information, one of two things usually happens. Either you get more information, start to get more comfortable that the decision is correct, and move forward with it. Or you'll uncover something that was unexpected, and you'll modify the decision to help achieve a better outcome. Now, once you've gone through this process, then it's time to make the decision.

Step 6. Communicate your decision clearly

The decision making process doesn't stop once you've made the decision. Particularly in making difficult decisions, you must clearly communicate your decision and the rationale behind it. In that way, even your team members who might have a different perspective will usually get on board. They want to understand the decision, believe they were listened to, and be given an honest assessment of why you chose the course of action you did. Once you've done that, then it's time to implement the decision.

Step 7. Implement the decision

Once you've made the decision, you need to get the ball rolling without delay. Check each initial step, take a little time to see if everything is fine and go straight forward on what you´ve decided. Once the decision has been implemented, wait to see the results. Taking a passive role after the process has been completed is essential to have a wide view of the full effects of implementation.

Step 8. Evaluate the results of the decision

On key decisions, it's important that we circle back with the team to find out how that decision is working. If we do that we can often improve the plan as we go and modify it, where needed, to achieve stronger outcomes. When you stop and think about it, very few decisions you make cannot be modified. So don't try to wait for perfection. For if you do, you'll often miss that window of opportunity for real and timely improvement.

man holding tablet with decision wheels
Photo by Gerd Altmann


When you have the information you need, make your decisions, evaluate progress, refine the direction, and keep moving forward to success. Intelligence alone is not enough to ensure that you'll make the right call. Only practice and process will give you the skills that you need for great decision making.

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