by: Steve Hubbell & Bruce Marxsen, Professional Development Officers,
Lincoln Composite Squadron
is a basic ingredient of leadership. It is not important whether the leader
actually comes up with the proposed action or simply endorses it. It is
important that decisions are made to keep moving forward. Applying a systematic
method to solving problems or making decisions is essential in everything
we do in life. Decisions to be made are not always of a critical nature.
Most decisions are considered so routine, the individual may not be aware
a decision was made.
dimensions of decision-making are based on the effectiveness of the decision,
the acceptance of the decision, and the importance placed on a commitment
to a solution based on the decision. A good decision is a balance between
the three. The nature of the decision will be between moral, ethical and
practical concerns. The decision turns critical when there is a conflict
with one or more of the moral, ethical, and practical issues; especially
when there is pressure to make a 'good' decision. No matter the nature
or need of the decision, good, solid reasoning should back the decision.
Individual decision-making is a combination of art and science. The individual
decision is made through intuition and analytical skill.
Intuition is the ability to know or feel something without logic or reason
creates the ideas for solving the problem or making the decision
solves the 'why' the decision has to be made
skill is the ability to use logic to examine and measure the problem
skill examines the ideas presented by the intuition
skill solves the 'how' the decision is made
A good individual
decision is based on the information at hand, the sensitivity to the situation
and rational, logical thought. Therefore, a bad decision can be attributed
to a combination of the following:
- A lack
of sensitivity or real perception of the situation
- A lack
of rational or logical thought
individual does not have enough information to make a good decision, nor
the correct perception of the situation, or is lacking a rational thought
process, there are six decision strategies that are used consciously or
we select a course of action based on a minimum set of requirements
we have to do is take our time and drive carefully in this snow storm"
we select a course of action based on a moralized justification
am running late and I cannot afford to spend more time at another
red stop light, so before this yellow light turns red, I will try
to squeeze through"
Through- we choose small incremental courses of action, instead of a
more thought out plan that will take more time
the time we get to the city, we will decide what hotel we want to
we look over a problem and choose only the most important aspect to
biggest problem we will face on this mission is staying awake while
driving to the search area"
we eliminate the problem by denying it exists, usually when the stress
level is high
on the Interstate at night is easy, because the traffic is less congested
than during the day and all vehicles are all going in the same direction"
we consider a wide range of choices and weigh each of the consequences,
which takes time to do.
is the ideal strategy to use for making good decisions.
decisions is a vital part of every leader's job. Of course, some decisions
are easier than others. Here are some ways to make an individual decision
when the pressure is on:
realistic expectations for yourself and be honest in identifying the
problems before you.
not take unnecessary action when the best course of action may be
to do nothing at all.
decisions are irreversible, and a firm decision that is later changed
is better than no decision at all, or maintaining a bad decision.
The key is to make the best decision, based on the best information
at the time, and then monitor the results of your action.
time wisely. A delay in making a decision could be disastrous. It
is important to face the decision when you have the time to gather
input and information. If you delay, there is a potential to find
yourself with fewer options when you are forced to decide. On the
other side, do not make 'snap' decisions unless absolutely necessary.
not lump your decisions together. Examine each, one at a time and
give it your full attention. When you attempt to make too many decisions
at once or under the scope of one decision for all, you will find
you can do little justice to any.
all your options. Do not limit yourself to traditional solutions just
because they have worked before. Look for creative ways to make a
decision or solve a problem.
outside for ideas and opinions. The best information will come from
those who work closest to the problems. Their insights may give you
the valuable information you need to make the right decision.
confidence in your ability to make a good decision, and never fool
yourself by choosing solutions that are easy and comfortable, but
fail to solve your problem.
it is important to distance yourself from the stress of the situation.
Take a few moments to relax. You will be better able to approach the
problem from a fresh (or different) perspective, to make a good decision.
everything else, your decision-making skills will improve with practice.
There are few decisions that can come out of a book or flow-chart.
Take advantage of opportunities to make low-level decisions and observe
how they turn out. Identify the pitfalls of decision-making and learn
to make good decisions with time.
the difference between decisions that require a 'cool head' or a 'warm
heart'. Be able to distinguish the difference between practical and
personal matters. Recognize what your heart is saying in personal
matters and what your head is saying in practical matters. Then teach
yourself to focus on the immediate situation and deal with other associated
problems at the appropriate time.
a poor decision will be made. Nobody expects you to be perfect. Hold on
to your principles of trying to do what is right. What counts is how well
you handle the situation when a poor decision is made. After all, sometimes
a poor decision is better than no decision at all.
are usually made in some very abstract methods, resulting in less than
by Lack of Support- (the Plop Method)- This is the most common
group decision method where an individual will make a suggestion,
but instead of a discussion someone else mentions what they think
is a better idea (plopping the original suggestion to the ground with
no support). Without proper group decision rules, this continues on
with every idea getting bumped without discussion and rejected by
the group. Presenters of the ideas will get discouraged and usually
the last suggestion that is not bumped will be selected out of frustration
by Negative Support- (the Contrary Method)- This is the second
most common group decision method where a suggestion is made, but
one or more people will attack stating only the negative aspect of
the idea, instead of a balanced discussion of the positive and negative.
Similar to the Plop Method, without proper decision rules this can
continue on until the idea or suggestion with the fewest negative
attacks will be selected with no discussion on the positive aspect
of any previous ideas.
by Minority Rule- (the Railroad Method)- This group decision method
is brought about by a combination of members who although in a minority,
have an opinion and they are not afraid to verbalize it. In order
for this method to be used, the group also needs to have some members
that are lacking confidence and believe that the more something is
verbalized, the more it must be right. In this method, silence is
interpreted as consent.
by Majority Rule- (the Poll and Vote Method)- The most familiar
group decision method, where following a period of discussion the
group's opinion is polled or voted on. This is the method used most
often when time is critical. Although, this method seems sound, such
decisions are more often than not difficult to implement, because
those voting against the idea do not feel ownership to the solution
and will only half-heartedly support the implementation.
by Authority Rule- (the Leader Decides Method)- This group decision
method is usually doomed to fail in the quality and implementation
of the decision. This method will usually become apparent in the first
few minutes of discussion as an assigned or self-appointed leader
will often step forward to press for a decision due to a critical
time element. Whether this method is good or not depends on if the
'authority' taking control of the situation has listened and culled
the right information on which the decision is to be made. Usually
such a decision is made because the group has to, not necessarily
that they want to.
by Consensus- (the Best Method)- This group decision method is
effective, but the most time-consuming. Although the group may be
able to reach a consensus it is important to realize it is likely
not a unanimous decision. Consensus is a state of affairs where communications
have been sufficiently open and the group has been generally supportive
to every discussion point. In this method, everyone must feel that
they have had a chance to be heard and a chance to influence the outcome.
Because a unanimous decision is rare, a consensus decision is usually
the best, if there is enough time to reach consensus.
and clarify the problem, but initially avoid references to possible
solutions. In this stage, any reference to solutions while stating
the problem will lead to early disagreement and prevent the group
from making meaningful progress.
the most basic cause(s) to the problem you are facing, separating
the influencing from the non-influencing factors.
as many alternative solutions to the problem as possible from each
member, without discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The focus should be on getting everyone's input to possible solutions.
criteria the desired solutions must meet, and then select one or more
options for action.
the advantages and disadvantages of each, using only positive commentary.
Negative commentary should be discouraged or ignored if heard.
a tentative agreement and allow each member to openly, but briefly
discuss the points they agree or disagree with.
a consensual contract based on each member's points, making adjustments
the contract to ensure everyone clearly understands what the agreement
is. It is a summation that will rule out possible misinterpretation
of expectations from the group.
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