There is always a better way to make a decision than by tossing a coin. Good decision making always flows from good problem analysis. Good problem analysis will help your students make consistently good decisions when faced with important choices. In this post, we will review the eight-step approach for good decision making.

decision making process

Let’s look closer at the decision making process to teach your students:

Step 1: State the problem

Stating the problem is the first step in the problem analysis process. This may sound simple, and it is. But because it is so simple, many people make the mistake of skipping over it. Failing to carefully define a problem up front wastes time and effort later because a fuzzy problem definition will lead your students towards unimportant, or even wrong, solutions.

Step 2: Accept responsibility for the problem

The second step requires a determination of exactly whose problem this is. Is it yours? Does it belong to someone else? If it belongs to someone else, then dismiss and refer the problem to its rightful owner and get on with other matters.  Don’t get in the middle of a problem if it is not yours. If the problem has been identified as yours, then you should accept the fact that you must do something about the problem and that it will not just go away. Accept the problem and view it as something that may be hard, but something you can handle.

Step 3: Collect data

Gathering additional data from dependable sources is critical to problem analysis. Keep an open mind during this part of the process so your own personal paradigms, or typical responses to situations or problems, will not become a barrier to accepting new data.

Step 4: Organize the data

In order to be able to work with all the data collected, it will have to be organized. You will have to separate your data into appropriate and inappropriate information. Discard data that is unreliable, unverifiable and deceptive. Prioritize all data in order of importance: Is it a(n)….?

  • fact
  • personal account
  • value
  • opinion
  • inclination
  • belief
  • written observation

Step 5: Interpret the data

After all data has been collected and organized, outline the problem for presentation to the group, or even to yourself, in order to better understand what you are facing. All aspects of the problem should be inspected and the specific causes described. Decide if the problem should be categorized as:

  1. A system problem-System problems need to be handled as quickly as possible because they cause a breakdown in the system.
  2. A crucial problem– Crucial problems deal with things that are more long-term and affect an organization, group or individual more directly. Examples of crucial problems include loss of an important customer or key employee.
  3. A defined problem-Defined problems are routine and general in nature. They have a single cause and are fairly easy to solve.
  4. An undefined problem-Undefined problems may seem to have many causes that will demand a great deal of time and energy to understand.
  5. A crisis problem– Crisis problems are situations that demand immediate attention and solutions.
  1. An opportunistic problem– Opportunistic problems deal with things that might happen in the future that could cause a problem. These problems demand a great deal of planning time.

Next define the magnitude or size of the problem by examining its boundaries and by viewing it from different points of view. Ask yourself: Are there several parts to the problem? Are the parts linked together? Ask yourself or the group several questions to try to get a handle on exactly what you are dealing with. You will want to determine the consequences of the problem if you do or don’t take action.

Step 6: Identify the root causes

Produce several hypotheses about the root causes of the problem. Seek  what is causing the problem to occur. This is a great time to seek the input of everyone involved and allow time for special input on what they see as the cause. Be specific when you develop your hypotheses and make sure that they are supported by objective proof. Be sure you are focusing on the causes and not the symptoms. Every effect is preceded by a cause, and all change must occur at the “cause” end and not the “effect” end of the problem.

Step 7: Implement the decision

Finally, you have reached the decision-making stage of problem analysis. It is time to implement the best decisions. Decisions answer the following question: How can I make this happen? By going through the first six steps of this problem-analysis approach as thoroughly as possible, you will have a much better chance for success than if you had made a quick or thoughtless decision.

Step 8: Evaluate the results

Evaluate the results of the decision. Did you achieve what you set out to achieve? Often even a carefully reached decision may turn out to be incorrect. By evaluating the results, you can return to your decision-making process better informed, repeat the process and reach a correct decision.

Thanks for tuning into our post on the decision making process. If you would like to learn more about teaching success skills to your students, sign up for a free soft skills webinar here.