“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”- Peter F. Drucker
In this quote, Professor Peter F. Drucker makes a significant observation about the importance of decision making: Success can only come from good decision making. Think about a time you made an a good decision. Did you find success after making it? Chances are, you did. Decision Making is using critical thinking skills to discover and choose a course of action. This is the final part of the critical thinking process: when you make a decision about how to solve your problem. You already know how to work through and analyze a problem. You have already formed and tested many hypotheses, so you should know the source of the problem. Now it’s time to make a decision about how to correct or solve the problem. Your solution may involve a course of action, or you may chose to do nothing at all. Decision making results in a plan, allowing you to address any problem you may face.
You make decisions every day. Some decisions are easy and can be made without putting much thought into them. Other decisions are much more challenging and require the use of critical thinking skills. The next time you find yourself facing a difficult decision, follow these five steps to help you work through the situation and make the best decision:
1. Decide on a plan
2. Use the plan
3. Monitor the results
4. Make judgments
5. Adjust your plan
Are you ready to learn more about decision making? Let’s look at these five steps in more detail.
Decide on a plan. The first step in Decision Making picks up where you left off in Problem Solving: The hypothesis. At the end of the problem solving process you tested your hypotheses, and the one that held up, or proved to be true, told you the cause of the problem. Now that you know the cause, you can develop a plan to solve the problem and make a decision.
When making your plan, it’s important to keep in mind the best possible outcome, and try to answer the question, “How can I make this happen?” As you develop your plan, it’s important to think about the possible risks that go along with taking action. A risk is anything that could happen that would keep you from reaching your desired outcome and could result in failure. Risk is part of the problem-solving and decision-making process. There is really no way to completely avoid it. However, if you know the risks from the beginning, you are more likely to be able to decrease their effects.
Use the plan. Now that you have a plan for solving the problem, it’s time to put the plan to use. Start by breaking up the plan into smaller assignments and putting them in order of importance for solving the problem. If you’re working within a group to solve the problem, you can assign each task or assignment to a different group member.
Having more people helping to put the plan to use can be helpful in that it allows you to get more done faster, but it can also lead to confusion if you’re not careful. It might help to create a task chart where you organize each duty and who is responsible for completing it. Think of each task as a short-term goal that will help you get to your long-term goal, solving the problem and making the decision.
Monitor the results. As you put the plan into action, you should notice the effects of your plan starting to take shape. Pay close attention to the changes that take place as a result of your plan and record them or write down your observations in a notebook. For now, simply monitor or watch the results without making any judgments about whether or not the plan is working. Before you can decide if the plan is working, you need to figure out what success looks like.
Make judgments. Once you have had enough time to monitor the results you can start to make some judgments about whether or not the plan was successful. Start by describing the ideal outcome. In other words, what do you hope will happen as a result of using the plan? Once you have that picture of what success looks like, you can start to compare what actually happened to your ideal outcome.
Adjust the plan. Once you’ve had a chance to observe the plan for a while and compare the results to the desired outcome, you can determine whether or not any adjustments need to be made. Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to make a good assessment of the results:
- What are some positive outcomes from the plan?
- What do you think caused these positive outcomes?
- What didn’t happen that you hoped would happen?
- What didn’t work?
- What could you change in order for the plan to be successful?
Now that you have a better understanding of why decision making is so important in the critical thinking process, do you want to learn how you might teach this concept? Try one our free instructor-led courses on soft skills to get started!