How Good Is Your Decision Making?
Decision making is a key skill in the workplace, and is particularly important if you want to be an effective leader.
Whether you're deciding which person to hire, which supplier to use, or which strategy to pursue, the ability to make a good decision with available information is vital.
It would be easy if there were one formula you could use in any situation, but there isn't. Each decision presents its own challenges.
So, how do you avoid making bad decisions – or leaving decisions to chance? You need a systematic approach to decision making so that, no matter what type of decision you have to make, you can make it with confidence.
No one can afford to make poor decisions. That's why we've developed this short quiz to help you assess your current decision-making skills. We'll examine how well you structure your decision-making process, and then we'll point you to specific tools and resources you can use to develop and improve this important competency.
How Good Are Your Decision-Making Skills?
For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the "wrong direction." When you are finished, please click the "Calculate My Total" button at the bottom of the test.
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18 Statements to Answer
|Not at All||Rarely||Sometimes||Often||Very Often|
|1 I evaluate the risks associated with each alternative before making a decision.|
|2 After I make a decision, it's final – because I know my process is strong.|
|3 I try to determine the real issue before starting a decision-making process.|
|4 I rely on my own experience to find potential solutions.|
|5 I tend to have a strong "gut instinct," and I rely on it in decision-making.|
|6 I am sometimes surprised by the actual consequences of my decisions.|
|7 I use a well-defined process to structure my decisions.|
|8 I think that involving many stakeholders to generate solutions can make the process more complicated than it needs to be.|
|9 If I have doubts about my decision, I go back and recheck my assumptions and my process.|
|10 I take the time needed to choose the best decision-making tool for each specific decision.|
|11 I consider a variety of potential solutions before I make my decision.|
|12 Before I communicate my decision, I create an implementation plan.|
|13 In a group decision-making process, I tend to support my friends' proposals and try to find ways to make them work.|
|14 When communicating my decision, I include my rationale and justification.|
|15 Some of the options I've chosen have been much more difficult to implement than I had expected.|
|16 I prefer to make decisions on my own, and then let other people know what I've decided.|
|17 I determine the factors most important to the decision, and then use those factors to evaluate my choices.|
|18 I emphasize how confident I am in my decision as a way to gain support for my plans.|
Your decision-making hasn't fully matured. You aren't objective enough, and you rely too much on luck, instinct or timing to make reliable decisions. Start to improve your decision-making skills by focusing more on the process that leads to the decision, rather than on the decision itself. With a solid process, you can face any decision with confidence. We'll show you how. (Read below to start.)
Your decision-making process is OK. You have a good understanding of the basics, but now you need to improve your process and be more proactive. Concentrate on finding lots of options and discovering as many risks and consequences as you can. The better your analysis, the better your decision will be in the long term. Focus specifically on the areas where you lost points, and develop a system that will work for you across a wide variety of situations. (Read below to start.)
You have an excellent approach to decision-making! You know how to set up the process and generate lots of potential solutions. From there, you analyze the options carefully, and you make the best decisions possible based on what you know. As you gain more and more experience, use that information to evaluate your decisions, and continue to build on your decision-making success. Think about the areas where you lost points, and decide how you can include those areas in your process. (Read below to start.)
As you answered the questions, did you see some common themes? We based our quiz on the essential steps that we highlight in our article, How to Make Decisions. Once you're sure of the root issue that you're deciding on, the strategy to follow is:
- Establish a positive decision-making environment.
- Generate potential solutions.
- Evaluate the solutions
- Check your decision.
- Communicate and implement.
If you're aware of these basic elements and improve the way you structure them, this will help you develop a better overall decision-making system. Let's look at these elements individually.
Establish a Positive Decision-Making Environment
(Questions 3, 7, 13, 16)Your score is 0 out of 0
If you've ever been in a meeting where people seem to be discussing different issues, then you've seen what happens when the decision-making environment hasn't been established. It's so important for everyone to understand the issue before preparing to make a decision. This includes agreeing on an objective, making sure the right issue is being discussed, and agreeing on a process to move the decision forward.
You also must address key interpersonal considerations at the very beginning. Have you included all the stakeholders? And do the people involved in the decision agree to respect one another and engage in an open and honest discussion? After all, if only the strongest opinions are heard, you risk not considering some of the best solutions available.
Generate Potential Solutions
(Questions 4, 8, 11)Your score is 0 out of 0
Another important part of a good decision process is generating as many good alternatives as sensibly possible to consider. If you simply adopt the first solution you encounter, then you're probably missing a great many even better alternatives. Our Creativity Tools page has a comprehensive set of tools and techniques that can help you generate great ideas, including Brainstorming.
Evaluate the Solutions
(Questions 1, 6, 15)Your score is 0 out of 0
The stage of exploring alternatives is often the most time-consuming part of the decision-making process. This stage sometimes takes so long that a decision is never made! To make this step efficient, be clear about the factors you want to include in your analysis. There are three key factors to consider:
- Risk – Most decisions involve some risk. However, you need to uncover and understand the risks to make the best choice possible.
- Consequences – You can't predict the implications of a decision with 100 percent accuracy. But you can conduct an Impact Analysis to identify and evaluate possible consequences.
- Feasibility – Is the choice realistic and implementable? This factor is often ignored. You usually have to consider certain constraints when making a decision. As part of this evaluation stage, ensure that the alternative you've selected is significantly better than the status quo.
(Questions 5, 10, 17)Your score is 0 out of 0
Making the decision itself can be exciting and stressful. To help you deal with these emotions as objectively as possible, use a structured approached to the decision. This means taking a look at what's most important in a good decision.
Take the time to think ahead and determine exactly what will make the decision "right." This will significantly improve your decision accuracy. Decision Matrix Analysis and Paired Comparison Analysis are effective tools for doing this.
Check Your Decision
(Questions 2, 9)Your score is 0 out of 0
Remember that some things about a decision are not objective. The decision has to make sense on an intuitive, instinctive level as well. The entire process we have discussed so far has been based on the perspectives and experiences of all the people involved. Now it's time to check the alternative you've chosen for validity and "making sense."
If the decision is a significant one, it's also worth auditing it to make sure that your assumptions are correct, and our article, The Ladder of Inference, can help you to ensure that that the logical structure you've used to make the decision is sound.
Communicate and Implement
(Questions 12, 14, 18)Your score is 0 out of 0
The last stage in the decision-making process involves communicating your choice and preparing to implement it. You can try to force your decision on others by demanding their acceptance. Or you can gain their acceptance by explaining how and why you reached your decision. For most decisions – particularly those that need participant buy-in before implementation – it's more effective to gather support by explaining your decision.
Have a plan for implementing your decision. People usually respond positively to a clear plan – one that tells them what to expect and what they need to do. For more information on developing these types of plans, read our articles about project management and change management.
Decision making is a skill – and skills can usually be improved. As you gain more experience making decisions, and as you become more familiar with the tools and structures needed for effective decision making, you'll improve your confidence. Use this opportunity to think about how you can improve your decision making and take your skills to the next level. Ultimately, improving your decision-making skills will benefit you and your organization.
This assessment has not been validated and is intended for illustrative purposes only. It is just one of many that help you evaluate your abilities in a wide range of important career skills. Click here for other self-tests.
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