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7 important steps in the decision making process

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshot

The decision making process is a method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and making a final choice with the goal of making the best decision possible. In this article, we detail the step-by-step process on how to make a good decision and explain different decision making methodologies.

We make decisions every day. Take the bus to work or call a car? Chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Whole milk or two percent?

There's an entire process that goes into making those tiny decisions, and while these are simple, easy choices, how do we end up making more challenging decisions? 

At work, decisions aren't as simple as choosing what kind of milk you want in your latte in the morning. That’s why understanding the decision making process is so important. 

What is the decision making process?

The decision making process is the method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and, ultimately, making a final choice. 

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Make good choices, fast: How decision-making processes can help businesses stay agile ebook banner image

The 7 steps of the decision making process

Step 1: identify the decision that needs to be made.

When you're identifying the decision, ask yourself a few questions: 

What is the problem that needs to be solved?

What is the goal you plan to achieve by implementing this decision?

How will you measure success?

These questions are all common goal setting techniques that will ultimately help you come up with possible solutions. When the problem is clearly defined, you then have more information to come up with the best decision to solve the problem.

Step 2: Gather relevant information

​Gathering information related to the decision being made is an important step to making an informed decision. Does your team have any historical data as it relates to this issue? Has anybody attempted to solve this problem before?

It's also important to look for information outside of your team or company. Effective decision making requires information from many different sources. Find external resources, whether it’s doing market research, working with a consultant, or talking with colleagues at a different company who have relevant experience. Gathering information helps your team identify different solutions to your problem.

Step 3: Identify alternative solutions

This step requires you to look for many different solutions for the problem at hand. Finding more than one possible alternative is important when it comes to business decision-making, because different stakeholders may have different needs depending on their role. For example, if a company is looking for a work management tool, the design team may have different needs than a development team. Choosing only one solution right off the bat might not be the right course of action. 

Step 4: Weigh the evidence

This is when you take all of the different solutions you’ve come up with and analyze how they would address your initial problem. Your team begins identifying the pros and cons of each option, and eliminating alternatives from those choices.

There are a few common ways your team can analyze and weigh the evidence of options:

Pros and cons list

SWOT analysis

Decision matrix

Step 5: Choose among the alternatives

The next step is to make your final decision. Consider all of the information you've collected and how this decision may affect each stakeholder. 

Sometimes the right decision is not one of the alternatives, but a blend of a few different alternatives. Effective decision-making involves creative problem solving and thinking out of the box, so don't limit you or your teams to clear-cut options.

One of the key values at Asana is to reject false tradeoffs. Choosing just one decision can mean losing benefits in others. If you can, try and find options that go beyond just the alternatives presented.

Step 6: Take action

Once the final decision maker gives the green light, it's time to put the solution into action. Take the time to create an implementation plan so that your team is on the same page for next steps. Then it’s time to put your plan into action and monitor progress to determine whether or not this decision was a good one. 

Step 7: Review your decision and its impact (both good and bad)

Once you’ve made a decision, you can monitor the success metrics you outlined in step 1. This is how you determine whether or not this solution meets your team's criteria of success.

Here are a few questions to consider when reviewing your decision:

Did it solve the problem your team identified in step 1? 

Did this decision impact your team in a positive or negative way?

Which stakeholders benefited from this decision? Which stakeholders were impacted negatively?

If this solution was not the best alternative, your team might benefit from using an iterative form of project management. This enables your team to quickly adapt to changes, and make the best decisions with the resources they have. 

Types of decision making models

While most decision making models revolve around the same seven steps, here are a few different methodologies to help you make a good decision.

​Rational decision making models

This type of decision making model is the most common type that you'll see. It's logical and sequential. The seven steps listed above are an example of the rational decision making model. 

When your decision has a big impact on your team and you need to maximize outcomes, this is the type of decision making process you should use. It requires you to consider a wide range of viewpoints with little bias so you can make the best decision possible. 

Intuitive decision making models

This type of decision making model is dictated not by information or data, but by gut instincts. This form of decision making requires previous experience and pattern recognition to form strong instincts.

This type of decision making is often made by decision makers who have a lot of experience with similar kinds of problems. They have already had proven success with the solution they're looking to implement. 

Creative decision making model

The creative decision making model involves collecting information and insights about a problem and coming up with potential ideas for a solution, similar to the rational decision making model. 

The difference here is that instead of identifying the pros and cons of each alternative, the decision maker enters a period in which they try not to actively think about the solution at all. The goal is to have their subconscious take over and lead them to the right decision, similar to the intuitive decision making model. 

This situation is best used in an iterative process so that teams can test their solutions and adapt as things change.

Track key decisions with a work management tool

Tracking key decisions can be challenging when not documented correctly. Learn more about how a work management tool like Asana can help your team track key decisions, collaborate with teammates, and stay on top of progress all in one place.

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Work Life is Atlassian’s flagship publication dedicated to unleashing the potential of every team through real-life advice, inspiring stories, and thoughtful perspectives from leaders around the world.

Kelli María Korducki

Contributing Writer

Dominic Price

Work Futurist

Dr. Mahreen Khan

Senior Quantitative Researcher, People Insights

Kat Boogaard

Principal Writer

steps of problem solving decision making process

This is how effective teams navigate the decision-making process

Zero Magic 8 Balls required.

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Flipping a coin. Throwing a dart at a board. Pulling a slip of paper out of a hat.

Sure, they’re all ways to make a choice. But they all hinge on random chance rather than analysis, reflection, and strategy — you know, the things you actually need to make the big, meaty decisions that have major impacts.

So, set down that Magic 8 Ball and back away slowly. Let’s walk through the standard framework for decision-making that will help you and your team pinpoint the problem, consider your options, and make your most informed selection. Here’s a closer look at each of the seven steps of the decision-making process, and how to approach each one. 

Step 1: Identify the decision

Most of us are eager to tie on our superhero capes and jump into problem-solving mode — especially if our team is depending on a solution. But you can’t solve a problem until you have a full grasp on what it actually is .

This first step focuses on getting the lay of the land when it comes to your decision. What specific problem are you trying to solve? What goal are you trying to achieve? 

How to do it: 

  • Use the 5 whys analysis to go beyond surface-level symptoms and understand the root cause of a problem.
  • Try problem framing to dig deep on the ins and outs of whatever problem your team is fixing. The point is to define the problem, not solve it. 

⚠️ Watch out for: Decision fatigue , which is the tendency to make worse decisions as a result of needing to make too many of them. Making choices is mentally taxing , which is why it’s helpful to pinpoint one decision at a time. 

2. Gather information

Your team probably has a few hunches and best guesses, but those can lead to knee-jerk reactions. Take care to invest adequate time and research into your decision.

This step is when you build your case, so to speak. Collect relevant information — that could be data, customer stories, information about past projects, feedback, or whatever else seems pertinent. You’ll use that to make decisions that are informed, rather than impulsive.

  • Host a team mindmapping session to freely explore ideas and make connections between them. It can help you identify what information will best support the process.
  • Create a project poster to define your goals and also determine what information you already know and what you still need to find out. 

⚠️ Watch out for: Information bias , or the tendency to seek out information even if it won’t impact your action. We have the tendency to think more information is always better, but pulling together a bunch of facts and insights that aren’t applicable may cloud your judgment rather than offer clarity. 

3. Identify alternatives

Use divergent thinking to generate fresh ideas in your next brainstorm

Use divergent thinking to generate fresh ideas in your next brainstorm

Blame the popularity of the coin toss, but making a decision often feels like choosing between only two options. Do you want heads or tails? Door number one or door number two? In reality, your options aren’t usually so cut and dried. Take advantage of this opportunity to get creative and brainstorm all sorts of routes or solutions. There’s no need to box yourselves in. 

  • Use the Six Thinking Hats technique to explore the problem or goal from all sides: information, emotions and instinct, risks, benefits, and creativity. It can help you and your team break away from your typical roles or mindsets and think more freely.
  • Try brainwriting so team members can write down their ideas independently before sharing with the group. Research shows that this quiet, lone thinking time can boost psychological safety and generate more creative suggestions .

⚠️ Watch out for: Groupthink , which is the tendency of a group to make non-optimal decisions in the interest of conformity. People don’t want to rock the boat, so they don’t speak up. 

4. Consider the evidence

Armed with your list of alternatives, it’s time to take a closer look and determine which ones could be worth pursuing. You and your team should ask questions like “How will this solution address the problem or achieve the goal?” and “What are the pros and cons of this option?” 

Be honest with your answers (and back them up with the information you already collected when you can). Remind the team that this isn’t about advocating for their own suggestions to “win” — it’s about whittling your options down to the best decision. 

How to do it:

  • Use a SWOT analysis to dig into the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the options you’re seriously considering.
  • Run a project trade-off analysis to understand what constraints (such as time, scope, or cost) the team is most willing to compromise on if needed. 

⚠️ Watch out for: Extinction by instinct , which is the urge to make a decision just to get it over with. You didn’t come this far to settle for a “good enough” option! 

5. Choose among the alternatives

This is it — it’s the big moment when you and the team actually make the decision. You’ve identified all possible options, considered the supporting evidence, and are ready to choose how you’ll move forward.

However, bear in mind that there’s still a surprising amount of room for flexibility here. Maybe you’ll modify an alternative or combine a few suggested solutions together to land on the best fit for your problem and your team. 

  • Use the DACI framework (that stands for “driver, approver, contributor, informed”) to understand who ultimately has the final say in decisions. The decision-making process can be collaborative, but eventually someone needs to be empowered to make the final call.
  • Try a simple voting method for decisions that are more democratized. You’ll simply tally your team’s votes and go with the majority. 

⚠️ Watch out for: Analysis paralysis , which is when you overthink something to such a great degree that you feel overwhelmed and freeze when it’s time to actually make a choice. 

6. Take action

Making a big decision takes a hefty amount of work, but it’s only the first part of the process — now you need to actually implement it. 

It’s tempting to think that decisions will work themselves out once they’re made. But particularly in a team setting, it’s crucial to invest just as much thought and planning into communicating the decision and successfully rolling it out. 

  • Create a stakeholder communications plan to determine how you’ll keep various people — direct team members, company leaders, customers, or whoever else has an active interest in your decision — in the loop on your progress.
  • Define the goals, signals, and measures of your decision so you’ll have an easier time aligning the team around the next steps and determining whether or not they’re successful. 

⚠️Watch out for: Self-doubt, or the tendency to question whether or not you’re making the right move. While we’re hardwired for doubt , now isn’t the time to be a skeptic about your decision. You and the team have done the work, so trust the process. 

7. Review your decision

9 retrospective techniques that won’t bore your team to tears.

As the decision itself starts to shake out, it’s time to take a look in the rearview mirror and reflect on how things went.

Did your decision work out the way you and the team hoped? What happened? Examine both the good and the bad. What should you keep in mind if and when you need to make this sort of decision again? 

  • Do a 4 L’s retrospective to talk through what you and the team loved, loathed, learned, and longed for as a result of that decision.
  • Celebrate any wins (yes, even the small ones ) related to that decision. It gives morale a good kick in the pants and can also help make future decisions feel a little less intimidating.

⚠️ Watch out for: Hindsight bias , or the tendency to look back on events with the knowledge you have now and beat yourself up for not knowing better at the time. Even with careful thought and planning, some decisions don’t work out — but you can only operate with the information you have at the time. 

Making smart decisions about the decision-making process

You’re probably picking up on the fact that the decision-making process is fairly comprehensive. And the truth is that the model is likely overkill for the small and inconsequential decisions you or your team members need to make.

Deciding whether you should order tacos or sandwiches for your team offsite doesn’t warrant this much discussion and elbow grease. But figuring out which major project to prioritize next? That requires some careful and collaborative thought. 

It all comes back to the concept of satisficing versus maximizing , which are two different perspectives on decision making. Here’s the gist:

  • Maximizers aim to get the very best out of every single decision.
  • Satisficers are willing to settle for “good enough” rather than obsessing over achieving the best outcome.

One of those isn’t necessarily better than the other — and, in fact, they both have their time and place.

A major decision with far-reaching impacts deserves some fixation and perfectionism. However, hemming and hawing over trivial choices ( “Should we start our team meeting with casual small talk or a structured icebreaker?” ) will only cause added stress, frustration, and slowdowns. 

As with anything else, it’s worth thinking about the potential impacts to determine just how much deliberation and precision a decision actually requires. 

Decision-making is one of those things that’s part art and part science. You’ll likely have some gut feelings and instincts that are worth taking into account. But those should also be complemented with plenty of evidence, evaluation, and collaboration.

The decision-making process is a framework that helps you strike that balance. Follow the seven steps and you and your team can feel confident in the decisions you make — while leaving the darts and coins where they belong.

Advice, stories, and expertise about work life today.

StrategyPunk

Master the 7-Step Problem-Solving Process for Better Decision-Making

Discover the powerful 7-Step Problem-Solving Process to make better decisions and achieve better outcomes. Master the art of problem-solving in this comprehensive guide. Download the Free PowerPoint and PDF Template.

StrategyPunk

StrategyPunk

Master the 7-Step Problem-Solving Process for Better Decision-Making

Introduction

Mastering the art of problem-solving is crucial for making better decisions. Whether you're a student, a business owner, or an employee, problem-solving skills can help you tackle complex issues and find practical solutions. The 7-Step Problem-Solving Process is a proven method that can help you approach problems systematically and efficiently.

The 7-Step Problem-Solving Process involves steps that guide you through the problem-solving process. The first step is to define the problem, followed by disaggregating the problem into smaller, more manageable parts. Next, you prioritize the features and create a work plan to address each. Then, you analyze each piece, synthesize the information, and communicate your findings to others.

By following this process, you can avoid jumping to conclusions, overlooking important details, or making hasty decisions. Instead, you can approach problems with a clear and structured mindset, which can help you make better decisions and achieve better outcomes.

In this article, we'll explore each step of the 7-Step Problem-Solving Process in detail so you can start mastering this valuable skill. You can download the process's free PowerPoint and PDF templates at the end of the blog post .

steps of problem solving decision making process

Step 1: Define the Problem

The first step in the problem-solving process is to define the problem. This step is crucial because finding a solution is only accessible if the problem is clearly defined. The problem must be specific, measurable, and achievable.

One way to define the problem is to ask the right questions. Questions like "What is the problem?" and "What are the causes of the problem?" can help. Gathering data and information about the issue to assist in the definition process is also essential.

Another critical aspect of defining the problem is identifying the stakeholders. Who is affected by it? Who has a stake in finding a solution? Identifying the stakeholders can help ensure that the problem is defined in a way that considers the needs and concerns of all those affected by it.

Once the problem is defined, it is essential to communicate the definition to all stakeholders. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there is a shared understanding of the problem.

Step 2: Disaggregate

After defining the problem, the next step in the 7-step problem-solving process is to disaggregate the problem into smaller, more manageable parts. Disaggregation helps break down the problem into smaller pieces that can be analyzed individually. This step is crucial in understanding the root cause of the problem and identifying the most effective solutions.

Disaggregation can be achieved by breaking down the problem into sub-problems, identifying the contributing factors, and analyzing the relationships between these factors. This step helps identify the most critical factors that must be addressed to solve the problem.

A tree or fishbone diagram is one effective way to disaggregate a problem. These diagrams help identify the different factors contributing to the problem and how they are related. Another way is to use a table to list the other factors contributing to the situation and their corresponding impact on the issue.

Disaggregation helps in breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts. It helps understand the relationships between different factors contributing to the problem and identify the most critical factors that must be addressed. By disaggregating the problem, decision-makers can focus on the most vital areas, leading to more effective solutions.

Step 3: Prioritize

After defining the problem and disaggregating it into smaller parts, the next step in the 7-step problem-solving process is prioritizing the issues that need addressing. Prioritizing helps to focus on the most pressing issues and allocate resources more effectively.

There are several ways to prioritize issues, including:

  • Urgency: Prioritize issues based on their urgency. Problems that require immediate attention should be addressed first.
  • Impact: Prioritize issues based on their impact on the organization or stakeholders. Problems with a high impact should be given priority.
  • Resources: Prioritize issues based on the resources required to address them. Problems that require fewer resources should be dealt with first.

Considering their concerns and needs, it is important to involve stakeholders in the prioritization process. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, or other forms of engagement.

Once the issues have been prioritized, developing a plan of action to address them is essential. This involves identifying the resources required, setting timelines, and assigning responsibilities.

Prioritizing issues is a critical step in problem-solving. By focusing on the most pressing problems, organizations can allocate resources more effectively and make better decisions.

Step 4: Workplan

After defining the problem, disaggregating, and prioritizing the issues, the next step in the 7-step problem-solving process is to develop a work plan. This step involves creating a roadmap that outlines the steps needed to solve the problem.

The work plan should include a list of tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities for each team member involved in the problem-solving process. Assigning tasks based on each team member's strengths and expertise ensures the work is completed efficiently and effectively.

Creating a work plan can help keep the team on track and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal. It can also help to identify potential roadblocks or challenges that may arise during the problem-solving process and develop contingency plans to address them.

Several tools and techniques can be used to develop a work plan, including Gantt charts, flowcharts, and mind maps. These tools can help to visualize the steps needed to solve the problem and identify dependencies between tasks.

Developing a work plan is a critical step in the problem-solving process. It provides a clear roadmap for solving the problem and ensures everyone involved is aligned and working towards the same goal.

Step 5: Analysis

Once the problem has been defined and disaggregated, the next step is to analyze the information gathered. This step involves examining the data, identifying patterns, and determining the root cause of the problem.

Several methods can be used during the analysis phase, including:

  • Root cause analysis
  • Pareto analysis
  • SWOT analysis

Root cause analysis is a popular method used to identify the underlying cause of a problem. This method involves asking a series of "why" questions to get to the root cause of the issue.

Pareto analysis is another method that can be used during the analysis phase. This method involves identifying the 20% of causes responsible for 80% of the problems. By focusing on these critical causes, organizations can make significant improvements.

Finally, SWOT analysis is a valuable tool for analyzing the internal and external factors that may impact the problem. This method involves identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to the issue.

Overall, the analysis phase is critical for identifying the root cause of the problem and developing practical solutions. Organizations can gain a deeper understanding of the issue and make informed decisions by using a combination of methods.

Step 6: Synthesize

Once the analysis phase is complete, it is time to synthesize the information gathered to arrive at a solution. During this step, the focus is on identifying the most viable solution that addresses the problem. This involves examining and combining the analysis results for a clear and concise conclusion.

One way to synthesize the information is to use a decision matrix. This involves creating a table that lists the potential solutions and the essential criteria for making a decision. Each answer is then rated against each standard, and the scores are tallied to arrive at a final decision.

Another approach to synthesizing the information is to use a mind map. This involves creating a visual representation of the problem and the potential solutions. The mind map can identify the relationships between the different pieces of information and help prioritize the solutions.

During the synthesis phase, remaining open-minded and considering all potential solutions is vital. To ensure everyone's perspectives are considered, it is also essential to involve all stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Step 7: Communicate

After synthesizing the information, the next step is communicating the findings to the relevant stakeholders. This is a crucial step because it helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the decision-making process is transparent.

One effective way to communicate the findings is through a well-organized report. The report should include the problem statement, the analysis, the synthesis, and the recommended solution. It should be clear, concise, and easy to understand.

In addition to the report, a presentation explaining the findings is essential. The presentation should be tailored to the audience and highlight the report's key points. Visual aids such as tables, graphs, and charts can make the presentation more engaging.

During the presentation, it is essential to be open to feedback and questions from the audience. This helps ensure everyone agrees with the recommended solution and addresses concerns or objections.

Effective communication is vital to ensuring the decision-making process is successful. Stakeholders can make informed decisions and work towards a common goal by communicating the findings clearly and concisely.

The 7-step problem-solving process is a powerful tool for helping individuals and organizations make better decisions. By following these steps, individuals can identify the root cause of a problem, prioritize potential solutions, and develop a clear plan of action. This process can be applied to various scenarios, from personal challenges to complex business problems.

Through disaggregation, individuals can break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts. By prioritizing potential solutions, individuals can focus their efforts on the most impactful actions. The work step allows individuals to develop a clear action plan, while the analysis step provides a framework for evaluating possible solutions.

The synthesis step combines all the information gathered to develop a comprehensive solution. Finally, the communication step allows individuals to share their answers with others and gather feedback.

By mastering the 7-step problem-solving process, individuals can become more effective decision-makers and problem-solvers. This process can help individuals and organizations save time and resources while improving outcomes. With practice, individuals can develop the skills to apply this process to a wide range of scenarios and make better decisions in all areas of life.

7-Step Problem-Solving Process PPT Template

Free powerpoint and pdf template, executive summary: the 7-step problem-solving process.

steps of problem solving decision making process

The 7-Step Problem-Solving Process is a robust and systematic method to help individuals and organizations make better decisions by tackling complex issues and finding practical solutions. This process comprises defining the problem, disaggregating it into smaller parts, prioritizing the issues, creating a work plan, analyzing the data, synthesizing the information, and communicating the findings.

By following these steps, individuals can identify the root cause of a problem, break it down into manageable components, and prioritize the most impactful actions. The work plan, analysis, and synthesis steps provide a framework for developing comprehensive solutions, while the communication step ensures transparency and stakeholder engagement.

Mastering this process can improve decision-making and problem-solving capabilities, save time and resources, and improve outcomes in personal and professional contexts.

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Problem Solving and Decision Making - Two Essential Skills of a Good Leader

Darren Matthews

Problem solving and decision making are two fascinating skillsets. We call them out as two separate skills – and they are – but they also make use of the same core attributes.

They feed on a need to communicate well, both through questioning and listening, and be patient and not rushing both processes through. Thus, the greatest challenge any leader faces when it comes to solving problems and decision making is when the pressure of time comes into play. But as Robert Schuller highlights in his quote, allowing problem-solving to become the decision means you’ll never break free from the problem.

“Never bring the problem-solving stage into the decision-making stage. Otherwise, you surrender yourself to the problem rather than the solution.”—Robert H. Schuller

So how does a leader avoid this trap? How do they ensure the problem solving doesn’t become the be-all and end-all?

The 7 steps of Effective Problem Solving and Decision Making

A vital hurdle every leader must overcome is to avoid the impulsive urge to make quick decisions . Often when confronted with a problem, leaders or managers fall back in past behaviours. Urgency creates pressure to act quickly as a result, the problem still exists, just side-lined until it rears its ugly head again.

Good problem solving opens opportunity. A notable example of this is the first principles thinking executed by the likes of Elon Musk and others. Understanding the fundamentals blocks of a process and the problem it’s creating can lead to not just the problem but accelerate beyond it.

So, to avoid the trap, and use problem solving and decision making effectively , you should embody yourself with the following seven steps.

1.      What is the problem?

Often, especially in time-critical situations, people don’t define the problem. Some label themselves as fire-fighters, just content with dowsing out the flames. It is a reactionary behaviour and one commonplace with under-trained leaders. As great as some fire-fighters are, they can only put out so many fires at one time, often becoming a little industry.

The better approach is to define the problem, and this means asking the following questions:

  • What is happening? ( What makes you think there is a problem?)
  • Where is it taking place?
  • How is it happening?
  • When is it happening?
  • Why is it happening?
  • With whom is it happening? (This isn’t a blame game…all you want to do is isolate the problem to a granular level.)
  • Define what you understand to be the problem in writing by using as few sentences as possible. (Look at the answers to your what, where, why, when, and how questions.)

2.      What are the potential causes?

Having defined the problem it is now time to find out what might be causing the problem. Your leadership skills: your communication skills need to be strong, as you look to gather input from your team and those involved in the problem.

Key points:

  • Talk to those involved individually. Groupthink is a common cause of blindness to the problem, especially if there is blame culture within the business.
  • Document what you’ve heard and what you think is the root cause is.
  • Be inquisitive. You don’t know what you don’t know, so get the input of others and open yourself up to the feedback you’ll need to solve this problem.

3.      What other ways can you overcome the problem?

 Sometimes, getting to the root cause can take time. Of course, you can’t ignore it, but it is important to produce a plan to temporarily fix the problem. In business, a problem will be costing the business money, whether it be sales or profit. So, a temporary fix allows the business to move forward, providing it neutralises the downside of the original problem.

4.      How will you resolve the problem?

At this stage, you still don’t know what the actual problem is. All you have is a definition of the problem which is a diagnosis of the issue. You will have the team’s input, as well as your opinions as to what the next steps should be.

If you don’t, then at this stage you should think about reassessing the problem. One way forward could be to become more granular and adopt a first-principles approach.

  • Break the problem down into its core parts
  • What forms the foundational blocks of the system in operation?
  • Ask powerful questions to get to the truth of the problem
  • How do the parts fit together?
  • What was the original purpose of the system working in this way?
  • Name and separate your assumptions from the facts
  • Remind yourself of the goal and create a new solution

Solve hard problems with inversion

Another way is to invert the problem using the following technique:

1. Understand the problem

Every solution starts with developing a clear understanding of what the problem is. In this instance, some clarity of the issue is vital.

2. Ask the opposite question

Convention wisdom means we see the world logically. But what if you turned the logical outcome on its head. Asking the opposite questions brings an unfamiliar perspective.

3. Answer the opposite question

It seems a simple logic, but you can’t just ask the opposite question and not answer it. You must think through the dynamics that come from asking the question. You're looking for alternative viewpoints and thoughts you've not had before.

4. Join your answers up with your original problem

This is where solutions are born. You’re taking your conventional wisdom and aligning it with the opposite perspective. So often the blockers seen in the original problem become part of the solution.

5.      Define a plan to either fix the problem permanently or temporarily

You now know the problem. You understand the fix, and you are a position to assess the risks involved.

Assessing the risks means considering the worst-case scenarios and ensuring you avoid them. Your plan should take into the following points:

  • Is there any downtime to implementing the solution? If so, how long, and how much will it cost? Do you have backup systems in place to minimise the impact?
  • If the risk is too great, consider a temporary fix which keeps current operations in place and gives you time to further prepare for a permanent fix.
  • Document the plan and share it with all the relevant stakeholders. Communication is key.

Here we see the two skills of problem solving and decision making coming together. The two skills are vital to managing business risks as well as solving the problem.

6.      Monitor and measure the plan

Having evolved through the five steps to this stage, you mustn’t take your eye off the ball as it were.

  • Define timelines and assess progress
  • Report to the stakeholders, ensuring everyone is aware of progress or any delays.
  • If the plan doesn’t deliver, ask why? Learn from failure.

7.      Have you fixed the problem?

Don’t forget the problem you started with. Have you fixed it? You might find it wasn’t a problem at all. You will have learnt a lot about the part of the business where the problem occurred, and improvements will have taken place.

Use the opportunity to assess what worked, what didn’t, and what would have helped. These are three good questions to give you some perspective on the process you’ve undertaken.

Problem solving and decision making in unison

Throughout the process of problem solving, you’re making decisions. Right from the beginning when the problem first becomes clear, you have a choice to either react – firefight or to investigate. This progresses as move onto risk assessing the problem and then defining the solutions to overcome the issue.

Throughout the process, the critical element is to make decisions with the correct information to hand. Finding out the facts, as well as defeating your assumptions are all part of the process of making the right decision.

Problem solving and decision making – a process 

Problem solving isn’t easy. It becomes even more challenging when you have decisions to make. The seven steps I’ve outlined will give you the ability to investigate and diagnose the problem correctly.

  • What is the problem?
  • What are the potential causes?
  • What other ways can you overcome the problem?
  • How will you resolve the problem?
  • Define a plan to either fix the problem permanently or temporarily.
  • Monitor and measure the plan.
  • Have you fixed the problem?

Of course, this logical step by step process might not enable you to diagnose the issue at hand. Some problems can be extremely hard, and an alternative approach might help. In this instance, first principles thinking or using the power of inversion are excellent ways to dig into hard problems. Problem solving and decision making are two skills every good leader needs. Using them together is an effective way to work.

steps of problem solving decision making process

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8 Steps in the Decision-Making Process

Business team meeting to discuss an important decision

  • 04 Feb 2020

Strong decision-making skills are essential for newly appointed and seasoned managers alike. The ability to navigate complex challenges and develop a plan can not only lead to more effective team management but drive key organizational change initiatives and objectives.

Despite decision-making’s importance in business, a recent survey by McKinsey shows that just 20 percent of professionals believe their organizations excel at it. Survey respondents noted that, on average, they spend 37 percent of their time making decisions, but more than half of it’s used ineffectively.

For managers, it’s critical to ensure effective decisions are made for their organizations’ success. Every managerial decision must be accompanied by research and data , collaboration, and alternative solutions.

Few managers, however, reap the benefits of making more thoughtful choices due to undeveloped decision-making models.

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Why Is Making Decisions Important?

According to Harvard Business School Professor Leonard Schlesinger, who’s featured in the online course Management Essentials , most managers view decision-making as a single event, rather than a process. This can lead to managers overestimating their abilities to influence outcomes and closing themselves off from alternative perspectives and diverse ways of thinking.

“The reality is, it’s very rare to find a single point in time where ‘a decision of significance’ is made and things go forward from there,” Schlesinger says. “Embedded in this work is the notion that what we’re really talking about is a process. The role of the manager in managing that process is actually quite straightforward, yet, at the same time, extraordinarily complex.”

If you want to further your business knowledge and be more effective in your role, it’s critical to become a strong decision-maker. Here are eight steps in the decision-making process you can employ to become a better manager and have greater influence in your organization.

Steps in the Decision-Making Process

1. frame the decision.

Pinpointing the issue is the first step to initiating the decision-making process. Ensure the problem is carefully analyzed, clearly defined, and everyone involved in the outcome agrees on what needs to be solved. This process will give your team peace of mind that each key decision is based on extensive research and collaboration.

Schlesinger says this initial action can be challenging for managers because an ill-formed question can result in a process that produces the wrong decision.

“The real issue for a manager at the start is to make sure they are actively working to shape the question they’re trying to address and the decision they’re trying to have made,” Schlesinger says. “That’s not a trivial task.”

2. Structure Your Team

Managers must assemble the right people to navigate the decision-making process.

“The issue of who’s going to be involved in helping you to make that decision is one of the most central issues you face,” Schlesinger says. “The primary issue being the membership of the collection of individuals or group that you’re bringing together to make that decision.”

As you build your team, Schlesinger advises mapping the technical, political, and cultural underpinnings of the decision that needs to be made and gathering colleagues with an array of skills and experience levels to help you make an informed decision. .

“You want some newcomers who are going to provide a different point of view and perspective on the issue you’re dealing with,” he says. “At the same time, you want people who have profound knowledge and deep experience with the problem.”

It’s key to assign decision tasks to colleagues and invite perspectives that uncover blindspots or roadblocks. Schlesinger notes that attempting to arrive at the “right answer” without a team that will ultimately support and execute it is a “recipe for failure.”

3. Consider the Timeframe

This act of mapping the issue’s intricacies should involve taking the decision’s urgency into account. Business problems with significant implications sometimes allow for lengthier decision-making processes, whereas other challenges call for more accelerated timelines.

“As a manager, you need to shape the decision-making process in terms of both of those dimensions: The criticality of what it is you’re trying to decide and, more importantly, how quickly it needs to get decided given the urgency,” Schlesinger says. “The final question is, how much time you’re going to provide yourself and the group to invest in both problem diagnosis and decisions.”

4. Establish Your Approach

In the early stages of the decision-making process, it’s critical to set ground rules and assign roles to team members. Doing so can help ensure everyone understands how they contribute to problem-solving and agrees on how a solution will be reached.

“It’s really important to get clarity upfront around the roles people are going to play and the ways in which decisions are going to get made,” Schlesinger says. “Often, managers leave that to chance, so people self-assign themselves to roles in ways that you don’t necessarily want, and the decision-making process defers to consensus, which is likely to lead to a lower evaluation of the problem and a less creative solution.”

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5. Encourage Discussion and Debate

One of the issues of leading a group that defaults to consensus is that it can shut out contrarian points of view and deter inventive problem-solving. Because of this potential pitfall, Schlesinger notes, you should designate roles that focus on poking holes in arguments and fostering debate.

“What we’re talking about is establishing a process of devil’s advocacy, either in an individual or a subgroup role,” he says. “That’s much more likely to lead to a deeper critical evaluation and generate a substantial number of alternatives.”

Schlesinger adds that this action can take time and potentially disrupt group harmony, so it’s vital for managers to guide the inner workings of the process from the outset to ensure effective collaboration and guarantee more quality decisions will be made.

“What we need to do is establish norms in the group that enable us to be open to a broader array of data and decision-making processes,” he says. “If that doesn’t happen upfront, but in the process without a conversation, it’s generally a source of consternation and some measure of frustration.”

Related: 3 Group Decision-Making Techniques for Success

6. Navigate Group Dynamics

In addition to creating a dynamic in which candor and debate are encouraged, there are other challenges you need to navigate as you manage your team throughout the decision-making process.

One is ensuring the size of the group is appropriate for the problem and allows for an efficient workflow.

“In getting all the people together that have relevant data and represent various political and cultural constituencies, each incremental member adds to the complexity of the decision-making process and the amount of time it takes to get a decision made and implemented,” Schlesinger says.

Another task, he notes, is identifying which parts of the process can be completed without face-to-face interaction.

“There’s no question that pieces of the decision-making process can be deferred to paper, email, or some app,” Schlesinger says. “But, at the end of the day, given that so much of decision-making requires high-quality human interaction, you need to defer some part of the process for ill-structured and difficult tasks to a face-to-face meeting.”

7. Ensure the Pieces Are in Place for Implementation

Throughout your team’s efforts to arrive at a decision, you must ensure you facilitate a process that encompasses:

  • Shared goals that were presented upfront
  • Alternative options that have been given rigorous thought and fair consideration
  • Sound methods for exploring decisions’ consequences

According to Schlesinger, these components profoundly influence the quality of the solution that’s ultimately identified and the types of decisions that’ll be made in the future.

“In the general manager’s job, the quality of the decision is only one part of the equation,” he says. “All of this is oriented toward trying to make sure that once a decision is made, we have the right groupings and the right support to implement.”

8. Achieve Closure and Alignment

Achieving closure in the decision-making process requires arriving at a solution that sufficiently aligns members of your group and garners enough support to implement it.

As with the other phases of decision-making, clear communication ensures your team understands and commits to the plan.

In a video interview for the online course Management Essentials , Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria says it’s essential to explain the rationale behind the decision to your employees.

“If it’s a decision that you have to make, say, ‘I know there were some of you who thought differently, but let me tell you why we went this way,’” Nohria says. “This is so the people on the other side feel heard and recognize the concerns they raised are things you’ve tried to incorporate into the decision and, as implementation proceeds, if those concerns become real, then they’ll be attended to.”

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How to Improve Your Decision-Making

An in-depth understanding of the decision-making process is vital for all managers. Whether you’re an aspiring manager aiming to move up at your organization or a seasoned executive who wants to boost your job performance, honing your approach to decision-making can improve your managerial skills and equip you with the tools to advance your career.

Do you want to become a more effective decision-maker? Explore Management Essentials —one of our online leadership and management courses —to learn how you can influence the context and environment in which decisions get made.

This article was update on July 15, 2022. It was originally published on February 4, 2020.

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The Problem-Solving Process

Looking at the basic problem-solving process to help keep you on the right track.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

Problem-solving is an important part of planning and decision-making. The process has much in common with the decision-making process, and in the case of complex decisions, can form part of the process itself.

We face and solve problems every day, in a variety of guises and of differing complexity. Some, such as the resolution of a serious complaint, require a significant amount of time, thought and investigation. Others, such as a printer running out of paper, are so quickly resolved they barely register as a problem at all.

steps of problem solving decision making process

Despite the everyday occurrence of problems, many people lack confidence when it comes to solving them, and as a result may chose to stay with the status quo rather than tackle the issue. Broken down into steps, however, the problem-solving process is very simple. While there are many tools and techniques available to help us solve problems, the outline process remains the same.

The main stages of problem-solving are outlined below, though not all are required for every problem that needs to be solved.

steps of problem solving decision making process

1. Define the Problem

Clarify the problem before trying to solve it. A common mistake with problem-solving is to react to what the problem appears to be, rather than what it actually is. Write down a simple statement of the problem, and then underline the key words. Be certain there are no hidden assumptions in the key words you have underlined. One way of doing this is to use a synonym to replace the key words. For example, ‘We need to encourage higher productivity ’ might become ‘We need to promote superior output ’ which has a different meaning.

2. Analyze the Problem

Ask yourself, and others, the following questions.

  • Where is the problem occurring?
  • When is it occurring?
  • Why is it happening?

Be careful not to jump to ‘who is causing the problem?’. When stressed and faced with a problem it is all too easy to assign blame. This, however, can cause negative feeling and does not help to solve the problem. As an example, if an employee is underperforming, the root of the problem might lie in a number of areas, such as lack of training, workplace bullying or management style. To assign immediate blame to the employee would not therefore resolve the underlying issue.

Once the answers to the where, when and why have been determined, the following questions should also be asked:

  • Where can further information be found?
  • Is this information correct, up-to-date and unbiased?
  • What does this information mean in terms of the available options?

3. Generate Potential Solutions

When generating potential solutions it can be a good idea to have a mixture of ‘right brain’ and ‘left brain’ thinkers. In other words, some people who think laterally and some who think logically. This provides a balance in terms of generating the widest possible variety of solutions while also being realistic about what can be achieved. There are many tools and techniques which can help produce solutions, including thinking about the problem from a number of different perspectives, and brainstorming, where a team or individual write as many possibilities as they can think of to encourage lateral thinking and generate a broad range of potential solutions.

4. Select Best Solution

When selecting the best solution, consider:

  • Is this a long-term solution, or a ‘quick fix’?
  • Is the solution achievable in terms of available resources and time?
  • Are there any risks associated with the chosen solution?
  • Could the solution, in itself, lead to other problems?

This stage in particular demonstrates why problem-solving and decision-making are so closely related.

5. Take Action

In order to implement the chosen solution effectively, consider the following:

  • What will the situation look like when the problem is resolved?
  • What needs to be done to implement the solution? Are there systems or processes that need to be adjusted?
  • What will be the success indicators?
  • What are the timescales for the implementation? Does the scale of the problem/implementation require a project plan?
  • Who is responsible?

Once the answers to all the above questions are written down, they can form the basis of an action plan.

6. Monitor and Review

One of the most important factors in successful problem-solving is continual observation and feedback. Use the success indicators in the action plan to monitor progress on a regular basis. Is everything as expected? Is everything on schedule? Keep an eye on priorities and timelines to prevent them from slipping.

If the indicators are not being met, or if timescales are slipping, consider what can be done. Was the plan realistic? If so, are sufficient resources being made available? Are these resources targeting the correct part of the plan? Or does the plan need to be amended? Regular review and discussion of the action plan is important so small adjustments can be made on a regular basis to help keep everything on track.

Once all the indicators have been met and the problem has been resolved, consider what steps can now be taken to prevent this type of problem recurring? It may be that the chosen solution already prevents a recurrence, however if an interim or partial solution has been chosen it is important not to lose momentum.

Problems, by their very nature, will not always fit neatly into a structured problem-solving process. This process, therefore, is designed as a framework which can be adapted to individual needs and nature.

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Decision-making process

The basic idea, theory, meet practice.

TDL is an applied research consultancy. In our work, we leverage the insights of diverse fields—from psychology and economics to machine learning and behavioral data science—to sculpt targeted solutions to nuanced problems.

Which do you prefer, hamburgers or pizza? 

You probably came up with the answer to that question quickly — unless you’re really torn between those two delicious meals. Yet, whenever we are making a choice between two or more things, our brains go through a decision-making process.

When we are presented with a choice, we first have to identify the decision. For the hamburger vs. pizza question, that’s an easy step — you immediately know that the decision is between two food items. Next, we have to gather the relevant information. You think of hamburgers and pizzas and their respective tastes. Then, you identify alternatives. Are there any other options? Maybe a secret taco stash laying around? No.

Now that you know the parameters of the decision, it’s time to weigh the evidence. Since it’s based on personal preference, you only have to conjure up your own experience eating both. Which one have you preferred in the past? And finally: you’re ready to make the choice. 1

If the question was to require an action, such as “Do you want to go get hamburgers or pizza?”, after making the choice, you would implement the action and order one or the other. The last step is to reflect on that decision. As you sit thedown with your slice of pizza, are you content? You evaluate your outcome so that in the future, you can improve your choices. 2

A decision-making process is the cognitive process where you weigh alternatives to achieve a desired result. 3

It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions. - American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn. 4

Problem Solving: while problem solving and decision making are related, they are not the same. Problem solving is an analytical process used to identify the possible solutions to a situation at hand and is sometimes a part of the decision-making process. However, sometimes you make a decision without identifying all possible solutions to the problem. 5

Analysis Paralysis: the inability to decide because of over-thinking. People usually get stuck in the stage where they consider all the alternatives and can be overwhelmed by choice (known as the choice overload bias ), preventing them from picking a choice. 6

Boundary conditions: constraints necessary for the solution of a decision. 7 The boundary conditions determine what the objective of the decision is and therefore what solutions will be suitable. 8

Maximizing: a decision-making process in which an individual employs optimization, where they gain all the necessary data on alternatives to make the best decision. 9

Bounded rationality : decision-making processes where individuals satisfice instead of optimize. 

Decision-making processes are one of the facets that make humans unique. There are definitely similarities between the ways that humans and animals make decisions (in fact, we wrote a whole article about it: “ Decision-Making Parallels Between Humans and Animals ”). But humans are thought to engage in more complex decision-making processes - our actions are less governed by instinct than animals.  

Since decision-making processes are an integral part of humanity, it’s impossible to pinpoint a time where they were first an object of research, as we have been interested in how humans make decisions as long as we have existed! In research, decision-making processes are usually examined as either group decision-making, or individual decision-making. 

In group decision-making, multiple individuals work together to analyze a question or problem, consider alternative choices, and make a choice. An obvious difference between group decision-making and individual decision-making is that the former process is usually more formal and occurs outside of internal thought processes. Being in a group also has quite impactful effects on the types of decisions we come to. For example, groupthink is a phenomenon borne from our desire to achieve consensus - individuals ignore evidence or neglect to speak out if their thoughts contradict the majority opinion. It is a form of group conformity that hinders critical thinking and can lead to suboptimal decisions. Additionally, groups tend to make riskier decisions than individuals. 10

Yet, sometimes group decision-making processes are advantageous because there are a greater number of perspectives which can reduce the personal biases that come into play with individual decision-making. Groups can usually come up with a greater number of alternatives, because they have more time and resources. Oftentimes, individuals have to employ the satisficing technique, where they make a choice that is satisfactory rather than optimal. When satisficing, individuals don’t engage in problem-solving, but pick the first choice they come across that adheres to the boundary conditions, because it requires too much time, effort, and resources to gather all the necessary evidence and alternative options. 

Various research has gone into trying to outline the steps involved in the decision-making process. One of the earlier processes,developed by Australian psychologist Leon Mann in the 1980s, is known as the GOFER process. It was based on a theory Mann had previously proposed alongside psychologist Irvin Janis, the conflict theory of decision making, which suggests decision-makers must choose from a set of alternatives that each have positive and negative outcomes. 11 GOFER represents an acronym for five decision-making steps:

  • G oal clarification. In this step, the decision-maker must determine what their goal is and what they are trying to achieve with their decision.
  • O ptions generation. The decision-maker conjures up different options that are available to them and that would help them achieve their goals.
  • F acts-finding. During this stage, the decision-maker examines what evidence they have on each alternative and what information they are missing that could help them make their decision. 
  • E ffects. The decision-maker considers the positive and negative outcomes of each alternative.
  • R eview. Now that a decision has been arrived at, the decision-maker considers how it will be implemented. 12

Another popular decision-making process model is the DECIDE model, developed in 2008 by Hawaiian educator, Kristina Guo. It has similar steps as the GOFER model and Guo developed it to help healthcare managers make better decisions. The acronym stands for:

  • D efine the problem.
  • E stablish the criteria.
  • C onsider the alternatives.
  • I dentify the best alternative.
  • D evelop a plan and implement the plan of action.
  • E valuate and monitor the solution and feedback. 10

While the first five steps are similar to the GOFER model, the DECIDE model has an additional step, evaluate, which is crucial for improving decision-making processes in the long run, as evaluating your choice will help you learn how successful it was and whether you should make the same decision in the future.

Consequences

Although we usually make decisions quickly, following decision-making models can help us make thoughtful decisions. By outlining the decision-making process, you can ensure that you are going through each step, considering the alternatives, and making an informed decision, which should lead to better outcomes. When it comes to group settings, being transparent about the decision-making process can also help other people understand why you’re making the choices you are. After all, wasn’t it irritating when your parents told you that the answer was no ‘because they said so’? 

Controversies

Oftentimes, people assume that decision-making processes are rational. Many models assume that individuals will make choices that maximize utility while minimizing costs. They also assume people have all of the information required to make the optimal choice — all of the models include a stage where the decision-maker analyzes various alternatives. 

But consider how many decisions you have made today. Is it really possible to go through each stage of the decision-making process, weigh out all the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative, and then come to a clear decision? Humans are thought to make around 35,000 choices per day, which makes it impossible for us to have the time, resources, or brain capacity to have all the information necessary to make a perfectly rational decision. 13

That’s why many people criticize decision-making models for being unrealistic, and instead suggest that decision-making processes actually adhere to bounded rationality , where decision-makers satisfice instead of optimize. 

Effectiveness of the GOFER Decision-Making Process

Giving teens the tools to make better, more thought-out decisions can help improve outcomes. In 1988, Leon Mann and his colleagues from The Flinders University of South Australia conducted a study to determine how effective teaching students the GOFER decision-making process was. 14  

Mann and his colleagues developed and ran a GOFER course to teach teens generalized decision-making skills that would enable the students to apply the decision skills to a range of problems even beyond the school context. They delivered the course over the span of a year with the aid of two principal texts. The first book outlined decision-making processes and the GOFER technique, while the second applied the principles of GOFER to five areas: decision-making in groups, friendships and decision-making, subject choices, money, and finally, the GOFER technique employed in various different professions. 14  

Mann et al. compared the students in South Australia who had taken the GOFER course with a control group of high school students who had not taken the course. They gave all students a questionnaire that asked them to reflect on their decision self-esteem, their vigilance with decisions, panic measures they might be prone to, cop out tendencies they use to avoid making decisions, and complacency. They filled out another questionnaire that examined their performance on decision-making across the five areas taught by the course, and a third questionnaire that asked them general information about decision-making, with questions like, “What makes a good decision maker?” 14

Mann found that the students who had been trained in the GOFER method during the course had much higher reports of self-esteem as a decision-maker, and better habits when it came to making decisions (fewer panic, cop-out, and complacency tendencies). Mann et al. concluded that the GOFER decision-making process helped improve student knowledge on decision-making, raise their confidence, and improved their habits. 14 

Decision-making styles

Just as there are various different decision-making models, there are different decision-making styles. Each style has different advantages and disadvantages, and can be categorized into four main types: directive, conceptual, analytical, and behavioral. 15

Directive: Individuals with directive decision-making styles rely on rationality, but the decision-maker usually relies solely on their own knowledge without taking into account other opinions. 15

Conceptual: The conceptual decision-maker likes to approach problems from every angle. They like to brainstorm potential alternatives, gather insights from other people, and try to come up with creative solutions to problems. This style of decision-making can be time-consuming as a result. 15

Analytical: Similar to the conceptual decision makers, analytical decision-makers like to gather a lot of information before they make a decision. While the conceptual decision-maker is keen to come up with creative solutions, the analytical decision-maker wants to find data and facts that will support their decision. At times, this can prevent innovative choices, but it means that choices are well-informed and objective. 16

Behavioral: Individuals with a behavioral decision-making style are group-oriented. However, instead of leaving the process open-ended, they will provide groups with potential options and alternatives and use the group sessions to discuss potential pros and cons. To be effective, this style needs a decisive leader who can listen to the pros and cons and execute a decision, or else discussion could go on forever. 16 

Related Content

Group Decision Making: How to Be Effective and Efficient

Groupthink can be an obstacle to group decision-making processes, but so can it’s opposite. You’ve probably heard of the phrase ‘too many cooks in the kitchen.’ When many people are involved in the decision-making process, too much time can be spent debating between alternatives which can lead to a standstill or a delay in making a decision. While opposite issues, both of these phenomena are common challenges in group decision-making. To discover some principles that can help groups make more effective and efficient decisions, read this article by our contributor, Yasmine Kalkstein.

The Power of Narratives in Decision Making

Decision-making processes are usually outlined as a series of steps or stages. Humans like to categorize things in that way, because we tend to process the world around us as narratives that have a sequence: a beginning (a cause), a middle, and an end (an effect). That is known as the theory of narrative thought, which this article explores. In the article, contributor Constantin Huet explores why it is that we think in terms of stories, and what effects stories have on our consumer decisions. 

  • 7 steps of the decision-making process . (2020, May 18). Lucidchart. https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/decision-making-process-steps
  • Decision-making process . (2016, September 23). University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. https://www.umassd.edu/fycm/decision-making/process/
  • Lunenburg, F. C. (2010). The Decision Making Process. National Forum of Educational Administration and Supervision Journal , 27 (4). http://www.nationalforum.com/Electronic%20Journal%20Volumes/Lunenburg,%20Fred%20C.%20The%20Decision%20Making%20Process%20NFEASJ%20
  • Sweatt, L. (2016, October 6). 13 Quotes About Making Life Choices . SUCCESS. https://www.success.com/13-quotes-about-making-life-choices/
  • Problem solving vs decision making – what is the difference? (2019, July 30). Changeboard. https://www.changeboard.com/article-details/16960/problem-solving-vs-decision-making-what-is-the-difference-
  • Chen, J. (2021, July 2). Analysis Paralysis . Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/analysisparalysis.asp
  • What Are Boundary Conditions? (2021, September 3). SimScale. https://www.simscale.com/docs/simwiki/numerics-background/what-are-boundary-conditions/
  • Drucker, P. F. (1967, January 1). The Effective Decision . Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/1967/01/the-effective-decision
  • Satisficing . (2021, October 7). The Decision Lab. https://thedecisionlab.com/reference-guide/psychology/satisficing/
  • Belovicz, M. W., Finch, F. E., & Jones, H. (2017). Do Groups Make Riskier Decisions Than Individuals. https://doi.org/10.5465/ambpp.1968.4980628
  • Loneck, B. M., & Kola, L. A. (2010). Using the Conflict-Theory Model of Decision Making to Predict Outcome in the Alcoholism Intervention. https://doi.org/10.1300/J020V05N03_09
  • GOFER Process for Decision Making. Tools and Techniques to make Better Choices . (October 6). Briquinex. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://briquinex.blogspot.com/2020/10/gofer-process-for-decision-making-tools.html
  • Krockow, E. M. (2018, September 27). How Many Decisions Do We Make Each Day? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/stretching-theory/201809/how-many-decisions-do-we-make-each-day
  • Mann, L., Power, C., Harmoni, R., Beswick, G., & Ormond, C. (1988). Effectiveness of the GOFER course in decision making for high school students. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making , 1 (3), 159-168. https://www.academia.edu/18668639/Effectiveness_of_the_GOFER_course_in_decision_making_for_high_school_students
  • Lombardo, J. (2013, July 24). Decision Making Styles: Directive, Analytical, Conceptual and Behavioral . Study.com. https://study.com/academy/lesson/decision-making-styles-directive-analytical-conceptual-and-behavioral.html
  • Malhotra, S. (2018, July 27). 4 styles of decision-making: A leader's guide . The Enterprisers Project. https://enterprisersproject.com/article/2018/7/4-styles-decision-making-leaders-guide?page=0%2C1

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7 Useful Steps in the Decision-Making Process (With Templates)

ClickUp Contributor

July 26, 2023

Decisions are a fact of life—whether you have to decide what you want for dinner, which candidate to hire for your lead IT role, or what products to bring to market this year. Every single day we make choices that can lead to progress or result in consequences.

Behind those decisions is a complex multi-step process. 

Harnessing control over that process empowers your decision-making and leads to more successful outcomes. Not only do you learn how to make great decisions, but you also learn from bad decisions so you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

With this guide to the decision-making process, you’ll learn seven critical steps to making better decisions. We’ll cover the different types of decision-making methods you can leverage in your business.

Plus, we’ll highlight decision-making templates for your team to develop profitable products and meet company goals. 👀

What is the Decision-Making Process?

Rational decision-making model, intuitive decision-making model, recognition-primed decision model, creative decision-making model, vroom-yetton decision-making model, 1. identify the decision you need to make, 2. gather information internally and externally, 3. determine potential solutions, 4. weigh the evidence of each option, 5. make the final decision, 6. take action on your decision, 7. conduct a review, 1. decision-making framework document, 2. decision tree, 3. project management decision log, 4. decision log.

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The decision-making process is a step-by-step procedure designed to create solutions to problems based on compiling information, examining the various options, and choosing how to proceed. 

From identifying the problem to reviewing all the options and implementing a plan of action, the seven-step decision-making process is well-suited for business decisions as well as more complicated personal choices. 🌻

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Types of Decision-Making Methods

There are several different types of effective decision-making models, including rational, creative, and intuitive—to name a few. Choosing the right model depends on the level of your decision-making skills, the amount of time you have, the nature of the decision, and your overall decision-making strategy. 

Here’s a brief breakdown of the different models of decision-making to try to find possible solutions to your roadblocks. 🤔

A rational and informed decision model focuses on logically laying out all the different alternative solutions. It’s the most popular model but can also require a lot of time in terms of research. 

With this model, you’ll identify all potential solutions and then work through the pros and cons of each to make an effective decision. It’s the best model for addressing problems that have a big impact on projects or the business as a whole since it involves a thoughtful and methodical approach.

The intuitive model is all about making choices based on feelings and gut instincts. It’s ideal in situations where there are time constraints since you can act quickly. 

However, this approach is best reserved for experienced business decision-making personnel who’ve handled similar problems before. Since you aren’t working with data, you need to have prior experience with pattern recognition to leverage this effectively. 

This model blends the approaches of rational and intuitive methods, but the defining factor is that you only assess one possible solution, rather than all of the available alternatives. Here’s how this model works:

  • Identify the problem
  • Work through a solution, mentally visualizing the impacts and outcomes 
  • Put the plan into action, if the anticipated result is acceptable

Again, this decision-making model is best suited for experts and business leaders. It’s ideal to use for situations where time pressures exist.

This decision-making approach combines parts of the rational model and the intuitive model. It starts by gathering information on the problem and coming up with potential solutions. Instead of breaking down the pros and cons of each, you let your intuition and subconscious take over, leading you to a course of action that’s then tested. 

This iterative problem-solving solution is ideal for brainstorming and experienced decision-makers like entrepreneurs.

The Vroom-Yetton model uses seven yes-or-no questions and five effective decision-making styles to guide you to the best decision. It’s one of the more complex models as you need to use a decision tree to get to the best option based on how you answer the questions and which style you choose. 

Decision-making process: adding a new Whiteboard

This model is best for teams and collaborative decision-making. The framework has built-in steps to segment work and assign responsibility for decision-making. 

7 Steps in the Decision-Making Process

Ready to discover a better way to make informed decisions? Work your way through this seven-step decision-making model when faced with a tough dilemma. From gathering information to weighing all the options, you’ll make better-informed decisions that can move the needle when it comes to your goals. ✨

The first thing you need to do is figure out what decision you’re trying to make. Maybe you have a roadblock when it comes to project execution or perhaps you have a shortage of resources.

Whatever it is, you need to clearly define the problem and scope of work before you even start thinking about solutions. To figure out what decision you need to make ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What is the specific problem? Be wary of being too broad or lumping multiple issues together. Identify exactly what the issue is and which team members are directly affected
  • Is there a goal tied to this decision? Prioritize any problems that are directly connected to project goals. Make the problem measurable so you can see how it affects the goal after you’ve made a decision
  • How will you know if the decision made an impact? When making decisions, you expect results. Figure out how you will evaluate if the decision you made is the right one

ClickUp Assumption Grid Decision Matrix Template

Making informed decisions is almost always better than just making a random choice. This step of the decision-making process is critical to your success. 

Start by gathering relevant information internally. Look for past situations where your team or company handled a similar problem and came up with a solution. Review project documentation to gather insights into what led to the problem at hand. 

Work within your department and in related departments to collect historical data on similar issues and the decisions connected to them. Walk through their prior experience and note any insights or relevant information.

Then, go outside your organization to find available information. Market research is an excellent way to see if competitors are having similar issues. Review studies and consider working with a consultant if you want more information or expertise.

Once you have all the necessary information, it’s time to start reviewing the available options. In most cases, there will be more than one potential solution to the problem. Making the right decision will depend on your company’s needs and the market environment at any given time.

For example, let’s say you work as a marketing project manager and your goal this quarter is to increase conversions by 300%. Your possible options may be to invest in paid advertising, create new blog content, or run social media campaigns.

There are also scenarios where you may choose a couple of different decision-making models or solutions rather than just one course of action. Be careful of biases—particularly if you’ve worked on a similar problem in the past.

Just because a solution worked once before doesn’t mean it’s always the best choice in similar situations. ✍️

Now that you know your options, it’s time to start weighing the evidence to see what the best course of action is. Examine how your company or competitors have responded to similar situations in the past. 

Make a list of pros and cons for each of the options. Consider if any of them offer additional rewards alongside solving the problem at hand. To do this, use strategic planning templates and methods like SWOT analysis and decision matrices . 

Now is the time to make a final decision and choose a course of action. Based on the information you gathered and your review of all the options, decide how you want to proceed. 

Maybe you’ll combine aspects of a few different solutions. Perhaps you’ll choose one specific approach to solve the problem. Consider all the evidence, review the alternatives, and choose the best solution.

You’ve taken the time and effort to review your options and made a choice. Next, you need to create a plan and put it into action. 

Create a project plan laying out affected stakeholders and which team members will play a role. Address resource allocation and plan the budget to include your new solutions. Prioritize projects and tasks and highlight any dependencies that may affect the outcome of your course of action.

Create a clear framework of expectations for all team members, and identify decision-makers within the action phase. As Chris Small, the VP of Soundstripe, said , “Communication is easy when there is only one channel between decision and action.” 

Decision-making process: App Marketplace in ClickUp

Break tasks down into easy to manage phases and be sure to let everyone know who is responsible for which decisions and actions. ✅

Back in step one, you established metrics and evaluation criteria for the problem solutions. Gauge whether you made the right decision by conducting a review of the decision-making process.

Here are some questions to ask yourself at the end of the decision-making process:  

  • Did you make a good decision?
  • Did the decision have any negative impacts?
  • How did the decision impact stakeholders?
  • Was there a better solution?
  • Was the problem solved?
  • Where could you have done a better job in the decision-making process?

Taking action is important, but taking time to review your decisions is just as critical. Schedule a decision-making review into your project timeline  to gather intel on what worked and what didn’t. Collaborate with team members to discuss their views on the process and results.

Decision-Making Templates for Your Team

Ready to implement good decision-making processes? These decision-making templates from ClickUp make life easier whether you’re an owner in charge of business decision-making or a project manager leading a rockstar team. 💪

Decision Making Framework Document

The Decision-Making Framework Document from ClickUp is an easy way to create a study for solving a problem and choosing the best solution. 

Fill out the template steps including identifying the problem, potential solutions, and impacts to the business. The framework lets you put all your ideas in one place, allowing for better analysis.

Decision Tree Whiteboard

Use ClickUp’s Decision Tree to map out possible options and solutions on a visual whiteboard. This template is ideal for teams that are looking to promote internal discussions on the best approaches. 

Color-coded steps make it easy to identify roadblocks and challenges throughout the process. Best of all, the template is designed to be collaborative, so you can get input from various team members across departments.

Project Management Decision Log

With Clickup’s Project Management Decision Log , capture and track all decision-making processes in an easy-to-manage dashboard. Five different status options and three custom fields make it easy to see what stage of the process each decision is in. 

The four view types let you sort by the calendar to see what’s happening now or view the decision board for a broader overview.

Decision Log

Document decision criteria, monitor progress, and assess outcomes with ClickUp’s Decision Log . Designed as a comprehensive tool, it’s ideal for managing your rational decision-making process from start to finish. Use it to create a plan for problem solving within departments, at the company level, and on specific projects.

Master the Decision-Making Process With ClickUp

You make decisions every single day—and in business, it’s a critical component to meet goals. Spending time choosing the right approach based on your specific business needs is essential whether you’re a project manager or an entrepreneur. 

Whether you’re making important decisions that affect the company’s bottom line or looking for innovative ways to serve your customers, it’s vital to put thought into the decisions you make. Acting hastily can lead to mistakes, but proper processes like the seven-step framework and methods above can help make you a better decision-maker.

Set yourself and your team up for success, and get started by using ClickUp to empower your decision-making processes. From templates that make it easier to log decisions to decision trees to map out your thought process, you’ll find countless ways to make decisions more effectively. 🙌

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What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)

By Status.net Editorial Team on May 7, 2023 — 5 minutes to read

What Is Problem Solving?

Definition and importance.

Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to obstacles or challenges you encounter in your life or work. It is a crucial skill that allows you to tackle complex situations, adapt to changes, and overcome difficulties with ease. Mastering this ability will contribute to both your personal and professional growth, leading to more successful outcomes and better decision-making.

Problem-Solving Steps

The problem-solving process typically includes the following steps:

  • Identify the issue : Recognize the problem that needs to be solved.
  • Analyze the situation : Examine the issue in depth, gather all relevant information, and consider any limitations or constraints that may be present.
  • Generate potential solutions : Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to the issue, without immediately judging or evaluating them.
  • Evaluate options : Weigh the pros and cons of each potential solution, considering factors such as feasibility, effectiveness, and potential risks.
  • Select the best solution : Choose the option that best addresses the problem and aligns with your objectives.
  • Implement the solution : Put the selected solution into action and monitor the results to ensure it resolves the issue.
  • Review and learn : Reflect on the problem-solving process, identify any improvements or adjustments that can be made, and apply these learnings to future situations.

Defining the Problem

To start tackling a problem, first, identify and understand it. Analyzing the issue thoroughly helps to clarify its scope and nature. Ask questions to gather information and consider the problem from various angles. Some strategies to define the problem include:

  • Brainstorming with others
  • Asking the 5 Ws and 1 H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How)
  • Analyzing cause and effect
  • Creating a problem statement

Generating Solutions

Once the problem is clearly understood, brainstorm possible solutions. Think creatively and keep an open mind, as well as considering lessons from past experiences. Consider:

  • Creating a list of potential ideas to solve the problem
  • Grouping and categorizing similar solutions
  • Prioritizing potential solutions based on feasibility, cost, and resources required
  • Involving others to share diverse opinions and inputs

Evaluating and Selecting Solutions

Evaluate each potential solution, weighing its pros and cons. To facilitate decision-making, use techniques such as:

  • SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Decision-making matrices
  • Pros and cons lists
  • Risk assessments

After evaluating, choose the most suitable solution based on effectiveness, cost, and time constraints.

Implementing and Monitoring the Solution

Implement the chosen solution and monitor its progress. Key actions include:

  • Communicating the solution to relevant parties
  • Setting timelines and milestones
  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities
  • Monitoring the solution and making adjustments as necessary
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the solution after implementation

Utilize feedback from stakeholders and consider potential improvements. Remember that problem-solving is an ongoing process that can always be refined and enhanced.

Problem-Solving Techniques

During each step, you may find it helpful to utilize various problem-solving techniques, such as:

  • Brainstorming : A free-flowing, open-minded session where ideas are generated and listed without judgment, to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
  • Root cause analysis : A method that explores the underlying causes of a problem to find the most effective solution rather than addressing superficial symptoms.
  • SWOT analysis : A tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a problem or decision, providing a comprehensive view of the situation.
  • Mind mapping : A visual technique that uses diagrams to organize and connect ideas, helping to identify patterns, relationships, and possible solutions.

Brainstorming

When facing a problem, start by conducting a brainstorming session. Gather your team and encourage an open discussion where everyone contributes ideas, no matter how outlandish they may seem. This helps you:

  • Generate a diverse range of solutions
  • Encourage all team members to participate
  • Foster creative thinking

When brainstorming, remember to:

  • Reserve judgment until the session is over
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Combine and improve upon ideas

Root Cause Analysis

For effective problem-solving, identifying the root cause of the issue at hand is crucial. Try these methods:

  • 5 Whys : Ask “why” five times to get to the underlying cause.
  • Fishbone Diagram : Create a diagram representing the problem and break it down into categories of potential causes.
  • Pareto Analysis : Determine the few most significant causes underlying the majority of problems.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis helps you examine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to your problem. To perform a SWOT analysis:

  • List your problem’s strengths, such as relevant resources or strong partnerships.
  • Identify its weaknesses, such as knowledge gaps or limited resources.
  • Explore opportunities, like trends or new technologies, that could help solve the problem.
  • Recognize potential threats, like competition or regulatory barriers.

SWOT analysis aids in understanding the internal and external factors affecting the problem, which can help guide your solution.

Mind Mapping

A mind map is a visual representation of your problem and potential solutions. It enables you to organize information in a structured and intuitive manner. To create a mind map:

  • Write the problem in the center of a blank page.
  • Draw branches from the central problem to related sub-problems or contributing factors.
  • Add more branches to represent potential solutions or further ideas.

Mind mapping allows you to visually see connections between ideas and promotes creativity in problem-solving.

Examples of Problem Solving in Various Contexts

In the business world, you might encounter problems related to finances, operations, or communication. Applying problem-solving skills in these situations could look like:

  • Identifying areas of improvement in your company’s financial performance and implementing cost-saving measures
  • Resolving internal conflicts among team members by listening and understanding different perspectives, then proposing and negotiating solutions
  • Streamlining a process for better productivity by removing redundancies, automating tasks, or re-allocating resources

In educational contexts, problem-solving can be seen in various aspects, such as:

  • Addressing a gap in students’ understanding by employing diverse teaching methods to cater to different learning styles
  • Developing a strategy for successful time management to balance academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities
  • Seeking resources and support to provide equal opportunities for learners with special needs or disabilities

Everyday life is full of challenges that require problem-solving skills. Some examples include:

  • Overcoming a personal obstacle, such as improving your fitness level, by establishing achievable goals, measuring progress, and adjusting your approach accordingly
  • Navigating a new environment or city by researching your surroundings, asking for directions, or using technology like GPS to guide you
  • Dealing with a sudden change, like a change in your work schedule, by assessing the situation, identifying potential impacts, and adapting your plans to accommodate the change.
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A 5-Step Problem-Solving Strategy

Specify the problem – a first step to solving a problem is to identify it as specifically as possible.  It involves evaluating the present state and determining how it differs from the goal state.

Analyze the problem – analyzing the problem involves learning as much as you can about it.  It may be necessary to look beyond the obvious, surface situation, to stretch your imagination and reach for more creative options.

seek other perspectives

be flexible in your analysis

consider various strands of impact

brainstorm about all possibilities and implications

research problems for which you lack complete information. Get help.

Formulate possible solutions – identify a wide range of possible solutions.

try to think of all possible solutions

be creative

consider similar problems and how you have solved them

Evaluate possible solutions – weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.  Think through each solution and consider how, when, and where you could accomplish each.  Consider both immediate and long-term results.  Mapping your solutions can be helpful at this stage.

Choose a solution – consider 3 factors:

compatibility with your priorities

amount of risk

practicality

Keys to Problem Solving

Think aloud – problem solving is a cognitive, mental process.  Thinking aloud or talking yourself through the steps of problem solving is useful.  Hearing yourself think can facilitate the process.

Allow time for ideas to "gel" or consolidate.  If time permits, give yourself time for solutions to develop.  Distance from a problem can allow you to clear your mind and get a new perspective.

Talk about the problem – describing the problem to someone else and talking about it can often make a problem become more clear and defined so that a new solution will surface.

Decision Making Strategies

Decision making is a process of identifying and evaluating choices.  We make numerous decisions every day and our decisions may range from routine, every-day types of decisions to those decisions which will have far reaching impacts.  The types of decisions we make are routine, impulsive, and reasoned.  Deciding what to eat for breakfast is a routine decision; deciding to do or buy something at the last minute is considered an impulsive decision; and choosing your college major is, hopefully, a reasoned decision.  College coursework often requires you to make the latter, or reasoned decisions.

Decision making has much in common with problem solving.  In problem solving you identify and evaluate solution paths; in decision making you make a similar discovery and evaluation of alternatives.  The crux of decision making, then, is the careful identification and evaluation of alternatives.  As you weigh alternatives, use the following suggestions:

Consider the outcome each is likely to produce, in both the short term and the long term.

Compare alternatives based on how easily you can accomplish each.

Evaluate possible negative side effects each may produce.

Consider the risk involved in each.

Be creative, original; don't eliminate alternatives because you have not heard or used them before.

An important part of decision making is to predict both short-term and long-term outcomes for each alternative.  You may find that while an alternative seems most desirable at the present, it may pose problems or complications over a longer time period.

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Problem-Solving Strategies and Obstacles

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

steps of problem solving decision making process

Sean is a fact-checker and researcher with experience in sociology, field research, and data analytics.

steps of problem solving decision making process

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  • Application
  • Improvement

From deciding what to eat for dinner to considering whether it's the right time to buy a house, problem-solving is a large part of our daily lives. Learn some of the problem-solving strategies that exist and how to use them in real life, along with ways to overcome obstacles that are making it harder to resolve the issues you face.

What Is Problem-Solving?

In cognitive psychology , the term 'problem-solving' refers to the mental process that people go through to discover, analyze, and solve problems.

A problem exists when there is a goal that we want to achieve but the process by which we will achieve it is not obvious to us. Put another way, there is something that we want to occur in our life, yet we are not immediately certain how to make it happen.

Maybe you want a better relationship with your spouse or another family member but you're not sure how to improve it. Or you want to start a business but are unsure what steps to take. Problem-solving helps you figure out how to achieve these desires.

The problem-solving process involves:

  • Discovery of the problem
  • Deciding to tackle the issue
  • Seeking to understand the problem more fully
  • Researching available options or solutions
  • Taking action to resolve the issue

Before problem-solving can occur, it is important to first understand the exact nature of the problem itself. If your understanding of the issue is faulty, your attempts to resolve it will also be incorrect or flawed.

Problem-Solving Mental Processes

Several mental processes are at work during problem-solving. Among them are:

  • Perceptually recognizing the problem
  • Representing the problem in memory
  • Considering relevant information that applies to the problem
  • Identifying different aspects of the problem
  • Labeling and describing the problem

Problem-Solving Strategies

There are many ways to go about solving a problem. Some of these strategies might be used on their own, or you may decide to employ multiple approaches when working to figure out and fix a problem.

An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure that, by following certain "rules" produces a solution. Algorithms are commonly used in mathematics to solve division or multiplication problems. But they can be used in other fields as well.

In psychology, algorithms can be used to help identify individuals with a greater risk of mental health issues. For instance, research suggests that certain algorithms might help us recognize children with an elevated risk of suicide or self-harm.

One benefit of algorithms is that they guarantee an accurate answer. However, they aren't always the best approach to problem-solving, in part because detecting patterns can be incredibly time-consuming.

There are also concerns when machine learning is involved—also known as artificial intelligence (AI)—such as whether they can accurately predict human behaviors.

Heuristics are shortcut strategies that people can use to solve a problem at hand. These "rule of thumb" approaches allow you to simplify complex problems, reducing the total number of possible solutions to a more manageable set.

If you find yourself sitting in a traffic jam, for example, you may quickly consider other routes, taking one to get moving once again. When shopping for a new car, you might think back to a prior experience when negotiating got you a lower price, then employ the same tactics.

While heuristics may be helpful when facing smaller issues, major decisions shouldn't necessarily be made using a shortcut approach. Heuristics also don't guarantee an effective solution, such as when trying to drive around a traffic jam only to find yourself on an equally crowded route.

Trial and Error

A trial-and-error approach to problem-solving involves trying a number of potential solutions to a particular issue, then ruling out those that do not work. If you're not sure whether to buy a shirt in blue or green, for instance, you may try on each before deciding which one to purchase.

This can be a good strategy to use if you have a limited number of solutions available. But if there are many different choices available, narrowing down the possible options using another problem-solving technique can be helpful before attempting trial and error.

In some cases, the solution to a problem can appear as a sudden insight. You are facing an issue in a relationship or your career when, out of nowhere, the solution appears in your mind and you know exactly what to do.

Insight can occur when the problem in front of you is similar to an issue that you've dealt with in the past. Although, you may not recognize what is occurring since the underlying mental processes that lead to insight often happen outside of conscious awareness .

Research indicates that insight is most likely to occur during times when you are alone—such as when going on a walk by yourself, when you're in the shower, or when lying in bed after waking up.

How to Apply Problem-Solving Strategies in Real Life

If you're facing a problem, you can implement one or more of these strategies to find a potential solution. Here's how to use them in real life:

  • Create a flow chart . If you have time, you can take advantage of the algorithm approach to problem-solving by sitting down and making a flow chart of each potential solution, its consequences, and what happens next.
  • Recall your past experiences . When a problem needs to be solved fairly quickly, heuristics may be a better approach. Think back to when you faced a similar issue, then use your knowledge and experience to choose the best option possible.
  • Start trying potential solutions . If your options are limited, start trying them one by one to see which solution is best for achieving your desired goal. If a particular solution doesn't work, move on to the next.
  • Take some time alone . Since insight is often achieved when you're alone, carve out time to be by yourself for a while. The answer to your problem may come to you, seemingly out of the blue, if you spend some time away from others.

Obstacles to Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is not a flawless process as there are a number of obstacles that can interfere with our ability to solve a problem quickly and efficiently. These obstacles include:

  • Assumptions: When dealing with a problem, people can make assumptions about the constraints and obstacles that prevent certain solutions. Thus, they may not even try some potential options.
  • Functional fixedness : This term refers to the tendency to view problems only in their customary manner. Functional fixedness prevents people from fully seeing all of the different options that might be available to find a solution.
  • Irrelevant or misleading information: When trying to solve a problem, it's important to distinguish between information that is relevant to the issue and irrelevant data that can lead to faulty solutions. The more complex the problem, the easier it is to focus on misleading or irrelevant information.
  • Mental set: A mental set is a tendency to only use solutions that have worked in the past rather than looking for alternative ideas. A mental set can work as a heuristic, making it a useful problem-solving tool. However, mental sets can also lead to inflexibility, making it more difficult to find effective solutions.

How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

In the end, if your goal is to become a better problem-solver, it's helpful to remember that this is a process. Thus, if you want to improve your problem-solving skills, following these steps can help lead you to your solution:

  • Recognize that a problem exists . If you are facing a problem, there are generally signs. For instance, if you have a mental illness , you may experience excessive fear or sadness, mood changes, and changes in sleeping or eating habits. Recognizing these signs can help you realize that an issue exists.
  • Decide to solve the problem . Make a conscious decision to solve the issue at hand. Commit to yourself that you will go through the steps necessary to find a solution.
  • Seek to fully understand the issue . Analyze the problem you face, looking at it from all sides. If your problem is relationship-related, for instance, ask yourself how the other person may be interpreting the issue. You might also consider how your actions might be contributing to the situation.
  • Research potential options . Using the problem-solving strategies mentioned, research potential solutions. Make a list of options, then consider each one individually. What are some pros and cons of taking the available routes? What would you need to do to make them happen?
  • Take action . Select the best solution possible and take action. Action is one of the steps required for change . So, go through the motions needed to resolve the issue.
  • Try another option, if needed . If the solution you chose didn't work, don't give up. Either go through the problem-solving process again or simply try another option.

You can find a way to solve your problems as long as you keep working toward this goal—even if the best solution is simply to let go because no other good solution exists.

Sarathy V. Real world problem-solving .  Front Hum Neurosci . 2018;12:261. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00261

Dunbar K. Problem solving . A Companion to Cognitive Science . 2017. doi:10.1002/9781405164535.ch20

Stewart SL, Celebre A, Hirdes JP, Poss JW. Risk of suicide and self-harm in kids: The development of an algorithm to identify high-risk individuals within the children's mental health system . Child Psychiat Human Develop . 2020;51:913-924. doi:10.1007/s10578-020-00968-9

Rosenbusch H, Soldner F, Evans AM, Zeelenberg M. Supervised machine learning methods in psychology: A practical introduction with annotated R code . Soc Personal Psychol Compass . 2021;15(2):e12579. doi:10.1111/spc3.12579

Mishra S. Decision-making under risk: Integrating perspectives from biology, economics, and psychology . Personal Soc Psychol Rev . 2014;18(3):280-307. doi:10.1177/1088868314530517

Csikszentmihalyi M, Sawyer K. Creative insight: The social dimension of a solitary moment . In: The Systems Model of Creativity . 2015:73-98. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9085-7_7

Chrysikou EG, Motyka K, Nigro C, Yang SI, Thompson-Schill SL. Functional fixedness in creative thinking tasks depends on stimulus modality .  Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts . 2016;10(4):425‐435. doi:10.1037/aca0000050

Huang F, Tang S, Hu Z. Unconditional perseveration of the short-term mental set in chunk decomposition .  Front Psychol . 2018;9:2568. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02568

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Warning signs and symptoms .

Mayer RE. Thinking, problem solving, cognition, 2nd ed .

Schooler JW, Ohlsson S, Brooks K. Thoughts beyond words: When language overshadows insight. J Experiment Psychol: General . 1993;122:166-183. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.2.166

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

steps of problem solving decision making process

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How to Make Great Decisions, Quickly

  • Martin G. Moore

steps of problem solving decision making process

It’s a skill that will set you apart.

As a new leader, learning to make good decisions without hesitation and procrastination is a capability that can set you apart from your peers. While others vacillate on tricky choices, your team could be hitting deadlines and producing the type of results that deliver true value. That’s something that will get you — and them — noticed. Here are a few of a great decision:

  • Great decisions are shaped by consideration of many different viewpoints. This doesn’t mean you should seek out everyone’s opinion. The right people with the relevant expertise need to clearly articulate their views to help you broaden your perspective and make the best choice.
  • Great decisions are made as close as possible to the action. Remember that the most powerful people at your company are rarely on the ground doing the hands-on work. Seek input and guidance from team members who are closest to the action.
  • Great decisions address the root cause, not just the symptoms. Although you may need to urgently address the symptoms, once this is done you should always develop a plan to fix the root cause, or else the problem is likely to repeat itself.
  • Great decisions balance short-term and long-term value. Finding the right balance between short-term and long-term risks and considerations is key to unlocking true value.
  • Great decisions are timely. If you consider all of the elements listed above, then it’s simply a matter of addressing each one with a heightened sense of urgency.

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Like many young leaders, early in my career, I thought a great decision was one that attracted widespread approval. When my colleagues smiled and nodded their collective heads, it reinforced (in my mind, at least) that I was an excellent decision maker.

steps of problem solving decision making process

  • MM Martin G. Moore is the founder of Your CEO Mentor and author of No Bullsh!t Leadership and host of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. His purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally through practical, real world leadership content. For more information, please visit, www.martingmoore.com.

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Team Dynamics: Problem-Solving and Decision Making

  • Teamwork and Team Leadership Table of Contents
  • Fostering Communication & Promoting Cooperation
  • Problem-Solving and Decision Making
  • Handling Conflict
  • Dealing with Power and Influence

1. Overview

  • Different stages of team development call for different problem solving methods
  • Problem solving requires the use of a systematic process
  • The appropriate decision making method is determined by the amount of time available for the decision and the impact of the decision
  • Effective decision making requires the use of smart techniques

2. Problem Solving in Team Development Stages

steps of problem solving decision making process

3. General Problem Solving Steps

  • Defining the problem : phrase problem as probing questions to encourage explorative thinking; make explicit goal statement
  • Establish criteria for evaluating the solution : identify characteristics of a satisfactory solution; distinguish requirements from desires
  • Analyzing the problem : discover the root cause and extent of the problem
  • Considering alternate solutions : brainstorm to generate many ideas before judging any of them
  • Evaluate alternate solutions : use ranking-weighting matrix; check for issues/disagreement
  • Deciding on a solution :  choose best answer to the problem from among all possible solutions
  • Develop action plan : make team assignments with milestones(don’t underestimate time)
  • Implementing the action plan : check for consistency with requirements identified in step 2
  • Following up on the solution :  check up on the implementation and make necessary adjustments
  • Evaluate outcomes and process :  review performance, process, and personal aspects of the solution

4. Decision Making Method Based on Time and Impact

steps of problem solving decision making process

5. Smart Decision Making is Enabled By. . .

  • Modeling an open mind and asking for candid opinions
  • What elements would you choose to change?
  • What changes would you make to solve …?  
  • Aligning rewards to team successes to ensure that individuals share what they know
  • Ensuring that team members are aware of relevant roles and unique information required for team success
  • Charging some team members to assume a position that opposes the team’s preference
  • Creating an alternate team that attempts to find errors and weaknesses in the solution
  • Using successive rounds of blind voting interspersed with discussions

6. Additional Readings

  • Hartnett, T. (n.d). Consensus decision making. Retrieved from http://www.consensusdecisionmaking.org/
  • UMass|Dartmouth (n.d.) 7 steps to effective decision making . Retrieved from https://www.umassd.edu/media/u massdartmouth/fycm/decision_ma king_process.pdf
  • Sunstein, C.R. (2014).  Making dumb groups smarter.  Harvard Business Review, 92(12), 90-98. 
  • << Previous: Fostering Communication & Promoting Cooperation
  • Next: Handling Conflict >>

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  • Last Updated: Jan 12, 2023 10:00 AM
  • URL: https://guides.himmelfarb.gwu.edu/teamdynamics

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14.3 Problem Solving and Decision Making in Groups

Learning objectives.

  • Discuss the common components and characteristics of problems.
  • Explain the five steps of the group problem-solving process.
  • Describe the brainstorming and discussion that should take place before the group makes a decision.
  • Compare and contrast the different decision-making techniques.
  • Discuss the various influences on decision making.

Although the steps of problem solving and decision making that we will discuss next may seem obvious, we often don’t think to or choose not to use them. Instead, we start working on a problem and later realize we are lost and have to backtrack. I’m sure we’ve all reached a point in a project or task and had the “OK, now what?” moment. I’ve recently taken up some carpentry projects as a functional hobby, and I have developed a great respect for the importance of advanced planning. It’s frustrating to get to a crucial point in building or fixing something only to realize that you have to unscrew a support board that you already screwed in, have to drive back to the hardware store to get something that you didn’t think to get earlier, or have to completely start over. In this section, we will discuss the group problem-solving process, methods of decision making, and influences on these processes.

Group Problem Solving

The problem-solving process involves thoughts, discussions, actions, and decisions that occur from the first consideration of a problematic situation to the goal. The problems that groups face are varied, but some common problems include budgeting funds, raising funds, planning events, addressing customer or citizen complaints, creating or adapting products or services to fit needs, supporting members, and raising awareness about issues or causes.

Problems of all sorts have three common components (Adams & Galanes, 2009):

  • An undesirable situation. When conditions are desirable, there isn’t a problem.
  • A desired situation. Even though it may only be a vague idea, there is a drive to better the undesirable situation. The vague idea may develop into a more precise goal that can be achieved, although solutions are not yet generated.
  • Obstacles between undesirable and desirable situation. These are things that stand in the way between the current situation and the group’s goal of addressing it. This component of a problem requires the most work, and it is the part where decision making occurs. Some examples of obstacles include limited funding, resources, personnel, time, or information. Obstacles can also take the form of people who are working against the group, including people resistant to change or people who disagree.

Discussion of these three elements of a problem helps the group tailor its problem-solving process, as each problem will vary. While these three general elements are present in each problem, the group should also address specific characteristics of the problem. Five common and important characteristics to consider are task difficulty, number of possible solutions, group member interest in problem, group member familiarity with problem, and the need for solution acceptance (Adams & Galanes, 2009).

  • Task difficulty. Difficult tasks are also typically more complex. Groups should be prepared to spend time researching and discussing a difficult and complex task in order to develop a shared foundational knowledge. This typically requires individual work outside of the group and frequent group meetings to share information.
  • Number of possible solutions. There are usually multiple ways to solve a problem or complete a task, but some problems have more potential solutions than others. Figuring out how to prepare a beach house for an approaching hurricane is fairly complex and difficult, but there are still a limited number of things to do—for example, taping and boarding up windows; turning off water, electricity, and gas; trimming trees; and securing loose outside objects. Other problems may be more creatively based. For example, designing a new restaurant may entail using some standard solutions but could also entail many different types of innovation with layout and design.
  • Group member interest in problem. When group members are interested in the problem, they will be more engaged with the problem-solving process and invested in finding a quality solution. Groups with high interest in and knowledge about the problem may want more freedom to develop and implement solutions, while groups with low interest may prefer a leader who provides structure and direction.
  • Group familiarity with problem. Some groups encounter a problem regularly, while other problems are more unique or unexpected. A family who has lived in hurricane alley for decades probably has a better idea of how to prepare its house for a hurricane than does a family that just recently moved from the Midwest. Many groups that rely on funding have to revisit a budget every year, and in recent years, groups have had to get more creative with budgets as funding has been cut in nearly every sector. When group members aren’t familiar with a problem, they will need to do background research on what similar groups have done and may also need to bring in outside experts.
  • Need for solution acceptance. In this step, groups must consider how many people the decision will affect and how much “buy-in” from others the group needs in order for their solution to be successfully implemented. Some small groups have many stakeholders on whom the success of a solution depends. Other groups are answerable only to themselves. When a small group is planning on building a new park in a crowded neighborhood or implementing a new policy in a large business, it can be very difficult to develop solutions that will be accepted by all. In such cases, groups will want to poll those who will be affected by the solution and may want to do a pilot implementation to see how people react. Imposing an excellent solution that doesn’t have buy-in from stakeholders can still lead to failure.

14.3.0N

Group problem solving can be a confusing puzzle unless it is approached systematically.

Muness Castle – Problem Solving – CC BY-SA 2.0.

Group Problem-Solving Process

There are several variations of similar problem-solving models based on US American scholar John Dewey’s reflective thinking process (Bormann & Bormann, 1988). As you read through the steps in the process, think about how you can apply what we learned regarding the general and specific elements of problems. Some of the following steps are straightforward, and they are things we would logically do when faced with a problem. However, taking a deliberate and systematic approach to problem solving has been shown to benefit group functioning and performance. A deliberate approach is especially beneficial for groups that do not have an established history of working together and will only be able to meet occasionally. Although a group should attend to each step of the process, group leaders or other group members who facilitate problem solving should be cautious not to dogmatically follow each element of the process or force a group along. Such a lack of flexibility could limit group member input and negatively affect the group’s cohesion and climate.

Step 1: Define the Problem

Define the problem by considering the three elements shared by every problem: the current undesirable situation, the goal or more desirable situation, and obstacles in the way (Adams & Galanes, 2009). At this stage, group members share what they know about the current situation, without proposing solutions or evaluating the information. Here are some good questions to ask during this stage: What is the current difficulty? How did we come to know that the difficulty exists? Who/what is involved? Why is it meaningful/urgent/important? What have the effects been so far? What, if any, elements of the difficulty require clarification? At the end of this stage, the group should be able to compose a single sentence that summarizes the problem called a problem statement . Avoid wording in the problem statement or question that hints at potential solutions. A small group formed to investigate ethical violations of city officials could use the following problem statement: “Our state does not currently have a mechanism for citizens to report suspected ethical violations by city officials.”

Step 2: Analyze the Problem

During this step a group should analyze the problem and the group’s relationship to the problem. Whereas the first step involved exploring the “what” related to the problem, this step focuses on the “why.” At this stage, group members can discuss the potential causes of the difficulty. Group members may also want to begin setting out an agenda or timeline for the group’s problem-solving process, looking forward to the other steps. To fully analyze the problem, the group can discuss the five common problem variables discussed before. Here are two examples of questions that the group formed to address ethics violations might ask: Why doesn’t our city have an ethics reporting mechanism? Do cities of similar size have such a mechanism? Once the problem has been analyzed, the group can pose a problem question that will guide the group as it generates possible solutions. “How can citizens report suspected ethical violations of city officials and how will such reports be processed and addressed?” As you can see, the problem question is more complex than the problem statement, since the group has moved on to more in-depth discussion of the problem during step 2.

Step 3: Generate Possible Solutions

During this step, group members generate possible solutions to the problem. Again, solutions should not be evaluated at this point, only proposed and clarified. The question should be what could we do to address this problem, not what should we do to address it. It is perfectly OK for a group member to question another person’s idea by asking something like “What do you mean?” or “Could you explain your reasoning more?” Discussions at this stage may reveal a need to return to previous steps to better define or more fully analyze a problem. Since many problems are multifaceted, it is necessary for group members to generate solutions for each part of the problem separately, making sure to have multiple solutions for each part. Stopping the solution-generating process prematurely can lead to groupthink. For the problem question previously posed, the group would need to generate solutions for all three parts of the problem included in the question. Possible solutions for the first part of the problem (How can citizens report ethical violations?) may include “online reporting system, e-mail, in-person, anonymously, on-the-record,” and so on. Possible solutions for the second part of the problem (How will reports be processed?) may include “daily by a newly appointed ethics officer, weekly by a nonpartisan nongovernment employee,” and so on. Possible solutions for the third part of the problem (How will reports be addressed?) may include “by a newly appointed ethics commission, by the accused’s supervisor, by the city manager,” and so on.

Step 4: Evaluate Solutions

During this step, solutions can be critically evaluated based on their credibility, completeness, and worth. Once the potential solutions have been narrowed based on more obvious differences in relevance and/or merit, the group should analyze each solution based on its potential effects—especially negative effects. Groups that are required to report the rationale for their decision or whose decisions may be subject to public scrutiny would be wise to make a set list of criteria for evaluating each solution. Additionally, solutions can be evaluated based on how well they fit with the group’s charge and the abilities of the group. To do this, group members may ask, “Does this solution live up to the original purpose or mission of the group?” and “Can the solution actually be implemented with our current resources and connections?” and “How will this solution be supported, funded, enforced, and assessed?” Secondary tensions and substantive conflict, two concepts discussed earlier, emerge during this step of problem solving, and group members will need to employ effective critical thinking and listening skills.

Decision making is part of the larger process of problem solving and it plays a prominent role in this step. While there are several fairly similar models for problem solving, there are many varied decision-making techniques that groups can use. For example, to narrow the list of proposed solutions, group members may decide by majority vote, by weighing the pros and cons, or by discussing them until a consensus is reached. There are also more complex decision-making models like the “six hats method,” which we will discuss later. Once the final decision is reached, the group leader or facilitator should confirm that the group is in agreement. It may be beneficial to let the group break for a while or even to delay the final decision until a later meeting to allow people time to evaluate it outside of the group context.

Step 5: Implement and Assess the Solution

Implementing the solution requires some advanced planning, and it should not be rushed unless the group is operating under strict time restraints or delay may lead to some kind of harm. Although some solutions can be implemented immediately, others may take days, months, or years. As was noted earlier, it may be beneficial for groups to poll those who will be affected by the solution as to their opinion of it or even to do a pilot test to observe the effectiveness of the solution and how people react to it. Before implementation, groups should also determine how and when they would assess the effectiveness of the solution by asking, “How will we know if the solution is working or not?” Since solution assessment will vary based on whether or not the group is disbanded, groups should also consider the following questions: If the group disbands after implementation, who will be responsible for assessing the solution? If the solution fails, will the same group reconvene or will a new group be formed?

14.3.1N

Once a solution has been reached and the group has the “green light” to implement it, it should proceed deliberately and cautiously, making sure to consider possible consequences and address them as needed.

Jocko Benoit – Prodigal Light – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Certain elements of the solution may need to be delegated out to various people inside and outside the group. Group members may also be assigned to implement a particular part of the solution based on their role in the decision making or because it connects to their area of expertise. Likewise, group members may be tasked with publicizing the solution or “selling” it to a particular group of stakeholders. Last, the group should consider its future. In some cases, the group will get to decide if it will stay together and continue working on other tasks or if it will disband. In other cases, outside forces determine the group’s fate.

“Getting Competent”

Problem Solving and Group Presentations

Giving a group presentation requires that individual group members and the group as a whole solve many problems and make many decisions. Although having more people involved in a presentation increases logistical difficulties and has the potential to create more conflict, a well-prepared and well-delivered group presentation can be more engaging and effective than a typical presentation. The main problems facing a group giving a presentation are (1) dividing responsibilities, (2) coordinating schedules and time management, and (3) working out the logistics of the presentation delivery.

In terms of dividing responsibilities, assigning individual work at the first meeting and then trying to fit it all together before the presentation (which is what many college students do when faced with a group project) is not the recommended method. Integrating content and visual aids created by several different people into a seamless final product takes time and effort, and the person “stuck” with this job at the end usually ends up developing some resentment toward his or her group members. While it’s OK for group members to do work independently outside of group meetings, spend time working together to help set up some standards for content and formatting expectations that will help make later integration of work easier. Taking the time to complete one part of the presentation together can help set those standards for later individual work. Discuss the roles that various group members will play openly so there isn’t role confusion. There could be one point person for keeping track of the group’s progress and schedule, one point person for communication, one point person for content integration, one point person for visual aids, and so on. Each person shouldn’t do all that work on his or her own but help focus the group’s attention on his or her specific area during group meetings (Stanton, 2009).

Scheduling group meetings is one of the most challenging problems groups face, given people’s busy lives. From the beginning, it should be clearly communicated that the group needs to spend considerable time in face-to-face meetings, and group members should know that they may have to make an occasional sacrifice to attend. Especially important is the commitment to scheduling time to rehearse the presentation. Consider creating a contract of group guidelines that includes expectations for meeting attendance to increase group members’ commitment.

Group presentations require members to navigate many logistics of their presentation. While it may be easier for a group to assign each member to create a five-minute segment and then transition from one person to the next, this is definitely not the most engaging method. Creating a master presentation and then assigning individual speakers creates a more fluid and dynamic presentation and allows everyone to become familiar with the content, which can help if a person doesn’t show up to present and during the question-and-answer section. Once the content of the presentation is complete, figure out introductions, transitions, visual aids, and the use of time and space (Stanton, 2012). In terms of introductions, figure out if one person will introduce all the speakers at the beginning, if speakers will introduce themselves at the beginning, or if introductions will occur as the presentation progresses. In terms of transitions, make sure each person has included in his or her speaking notes when presentation duties switch from one person to the next. Visual aids have the potential to cause hiccups in a group presentation if they aren’t fluidly integrated. Practicing with visual aids and having one person control them may help prevent this. Know how long your presentation is and know how you’re going to use the space. Presenters should know how long the whole presentation should be and how long each of their segments should be so that everyone can share the responsibility of keeping time. Also consider the size and layout of the presentation space. You don’t want presenters huddled in a corner until it’s their turn to speak or trapped behind furniture when their turn comes around.

  • Of the three main problems facing group presenters, which do you think is the most challenging and why?
  • Why do you think people tasked with a group presentation (especially students) prefer to divide the parts up and have members work on them independently before coming back together and integrating each part? What problems emerge from this method? In what ways might developing a master presentation and then assigning parts to different speakers be better than the more divided method? What are the drawbacks to the master presentation method?

Decision Making in Groups

We all engage in personal decision making daily, and we all know that some decisions are more difficult than others. When we make decisions in groups, we face some challenges that we do not face in our personal decision making, but we also stand to benefit from some advantages of group decision making (Napier & Gershenfeld, 2004). Group decision making can appear fair and democratic but really only be a gesture that covers up the fact that certain group members or the group leader have already decided. Group decision making also takes more time than individual decisions and can be burdensome if some group members do not do their assigned work, divert the group with self-centered or unproductive role behaviors, or miss meetings. Conversely, though, group decisions are often more informed, since all group members develop a shared understanding of a problem through discussion and debate. The shared understanding may also be more complex and deep than what an individual would develop, because the group members are exposed to a variety of viewpoints that can broaden their own perspectives. Group decisions also benefit from synergy, one of the key advantages of group communication that we discussed earlier. Most groups do not use a specific method of decision making, perhaps thinking that they’ll work things out as they go. This can lead to unequal participation, social loafing, premature decisions, prolonged discussion, and a host of other negative consequences. So in this section we will learn some practices that will prepare us for good decision making and some specific techniques we can use to help us reach a final decision.

Brainstorming before Decision Making

Before groups can make a decision, they need to generate possible solutions to their problem. The most commonly used method is brainstorming, although most people don’t follow the recommended steps of brainstorming. As you’ll recall, brainstorming refers to the quick generation of ideas free of evaluation. The originator of the term brainstorming said the following four rules must be followed for the technique to be effective (Osborn, 1959):

  • Evaluation of ideas is forbidden.
  • Wild and crazy ideas are encouraged.
  • Quantity of ideas, not quality, is the goal.
  • New combinations of ideas presented are encouraged.

To make brainstorming more of a decision-making method rather than an idea-generating method, group communication scholars have suggested additional steps that precede and follow brainstorming (Cragan & Wright, 1991).

  • Do a warm-up brainstorming session. Some people are more apprehensive about publicly communicating their ideas than others are, and a warm-up session can help ease apprehension and prime group members for task-related idea generation. The warm-up can be initiated by anyone in the group and should only go on for a few minutes. To get things started, a person could ask, “If our group formed a band, what would we be called?” or “What other purposes could a mailbox serve?” In the previous examples, the first warm up gets the group’s more abstract creative juices flowing, while the second focuses more on practical and concrete ideas.
  • Do the actual brainstorming session. This session shouldn’t last more than thirty minutes and should follow the four rules of brainstorming mentioned previously. To ensure that the fourth rule is realized, the facilitator could encourage people to piggyback off each other’s ideas.
  • Eliminate duplicate ideas. After the brainstorming session is over, group members can eliminate (without evaluating) ideas that are the same or very similar.
  • Clarify, organize, and evaluate ideas. Before evaluation, see if any ideas need clarification. Then try to theme or group ideas together in some orderly fashion. Since “wild and crazy” ideas are encouraged, some suggestions may need clarification. If it becomes clear that there isn’t really a foundation to an idea and that it is too vague or abstract and can’t be clarified, it may be eliminated. As a caution though, it may be wise to not throw out off-the-wall ideas that are hard to categorize and to instead put them in a miscellaneous or “wild and crazy” category.

Discussion before Decision Making

The nominal group technique guides decision making through a four-step process that includes idea generation and evaluation and seeks to elicit equal contributions from all group members (Delbecq & Ven de Ven, 1971). This method is useful because the procedure involves all group members systematically, which fixes the problem of uneven participation during discussions. Since everyone contributes to the discussion, this method can also help reduce instances of social loafing. To use the nominal group technique, do the following:

  • Silently and individually list ideas.
  • Create a master list of ideas.
  • Clarify ideas as needed.
  • Take a secret vote to rank group members’ acceptance of ideas.

During the first step, have group members work quietly, in the same space, to write down every idea they have to address the task or problem they face. This shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes. Whoever is facilitating the discussion should remind group members to use brainstorming techniques, which means they shouldn’t evaluate ideas as they are generated. Ask group members to remain silent once they’ve finished their list so they do not distract others.

During the second step, the facilitator goes around the group in a consistent order asking each person to share one idea at a time. As the idea is shared, the facilitator records it on a master list that everyone can see. Keep track of how many times each idea comes up, as that could be an idea that warrants more discussion. Continue this process until all the ideas have been shared. As a note to facilitators, some group members may begin to edit their list or self-censor when asked to provide one of their ideas. To limit a person’s apprehension with sharing his or her ideas and to ensure that each idea is shared, I have asked group members to exchange lists with someone else so they can share ideas from the list they receive without fear of being personally judged.

During step three, the facilitator should note that group members can now ask for clarification on ideas on the master list. Do not let this discussion stray into evaluation of ideas. To help avoid an unnecessarily long discussion, it may be useful to go from one person to the next to ask which ideas need clarifying and then go to the originator(s) of the idea in question for clarification.

During the fourth step, members use a voting ballot to rank the acceptability of the ideas on the master list. If the list is long, you may ask group members to rank only their top five or so choices. The facilitator then takes up the secret ballots and reviews them in a random order, noting the rankings of each idea. Ideally, the highest ranked idea can then be discussed and decided on. The nominal group technique does not carry a group all the way through to the point of decision; rather, it sets the group up for a roundtable discussion or use of some other method to evaluate the merits of the top ideas.

Specific Decision-Making Techniques

Some decision-making techniques involve determining a course of action based on the level of agreement among the group members. These methods include majority, expert, authority, and consensus rule. Table 14.1 “Pros and Cons of Agreement-Based Decision-Making Techniques” reviews the pros and cons of each of these methods.

14.3.2N

Majority rule is a simple method of decision making based on voting. In most cases a majority is considered half plus one.

Becky McCray – Voting – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Majority rule is a commonly used decision-making technique in which a majority (one-half plus one) must agree before a decision is made. A show-of-hands vote, a paper ballot, or an electronic voting system can determine the majority choice. Many decision-making bodies, including the US House of Representatives, Senate, and Supreme Court, use majority rule to make decisions, which shows that it is often associated with democratic decision making, since each person gets one vote and each vote counts equally. Of course, other individuals and mediated messages can influence a person’s vote, but since the voting power is spread out over all group members, it is not easy for one person or party to take control of the decision-making process. In some cases—for example, to override a presidential veto or to amend the constitution—a super majority of two-thirds may be required to make a decision.

Minority rule is a decision-making technique in which a designated authority or expert has final say over a decision and may or may not consider the input of other group members. When a designated expert makes a decision by minority rule, there may be buy-in from others in the group, especially if the members of the group didn’t have relevant knowledge or expertise. When a designated authority makes decisions, buy-in will vary based on group members’ level of respect for the authority. For example, decisions made by an elected authority may be more accepted by those who elected him or her than by those who didn’t. As with majority rule, this technique can be time saving. Unlike majority rule, one person or party can have control over the decision-making process. This type of decision making is more similar to that used by monarchs and dictators. An obvious negative consequence of this method is that the needs or wants of one person can override the needs and wants of the majority. A minority deciding for the majority has led to negative consequences throughout history. The white Afrikaner minority that ruled South Africa for decades instituted apartheid, which was a system of racial segregation that disenfranchised and oppressed the majority population. The quality of the decision and its fairness really depends on the designated expert or authority.

Consensus rule is a decision-making technique in which all members of the group must agree on the same decision. On rare occasions, a decision may be ideal for all group members, which can lead to unanimous agreement without further debate and discussion. Although this can be positive, be cautious that this isn’t a sign of groupthink. More typically, consensus is reached only after lengthy discussion. On the plus side, consensus often leads to high-quality decisions due to the time and effort it takes to get everyone in agreement. Group members are also more likely to be committed to the decision because of their investment in reaching it. On the negative side, the ultimate decision is often one that all group members can live with but not one that’s ideal for all members. Additionally, the process of arriving at consensus also includes conflict, as people debate ideas and negotiate the interpersonal tensions that may result.

Table 14.1 Pros and Cons of Agreement-Based Decision-Making Techniques

“Getting Critical”

Six Hats Method of Decision Making

Edward de Bono developed the Six Hats method of thinking in the late 1980s, and it has since become a regular feature in decision-making training in business and professional contexts (de Bono, 1985). The method’s popularity lies in its ability to help people get out of habitual ways of thinking and to allow group members to play different roles and see a problem or decision from multiple points of view. The basic idea is that each of the six hats represents a different way of thinking, and when we figuratively switch hats, we switch the way we think. The hats and their style of thinking are as follows:

  • White hat. Objective—focuses on seeking information such as data and facts and then processes that information in a neutral way.
  • Red hat. Emotional—uses intuition, gut reactions, and feelings to judge information and suggestions.
  • Black hat. Negative—focuses on potential risks, points out possibilities for failure, and evaluates information cautiously and defensively.
  • Yellow hat. Positive—is optimistic about suggestions and future outcomes, gives constructive and positive feedback, points out benefits and advantages.
  • Green hat. Creative—tries to generate new ideas and solutions, thinks “outside the box.”
  • Blue hat. Philosophical—uses metacommunication to organize and reflect on the thinking and communication taking place in the group, facilitates who wears what hat and when group members change hats.

Specific sequences or combinations of hats can be used to encourage strategic thinking. For example, the group leader may start off wearing the Blue Hat and suggest that the group start their decision-making process with some “White Hat thinking” in order to process through facts and other available information. During this stage, the group could also process through what other groups have done when faced with a similar problem. Then the leader could begin an evaluation sequence starting with two minutes of “Yellow Hat thinking” to identify potential positive outcomes, then “Black Hat thinking” to allow group members to express reservations about ideas and point out potential problems, then “Red Hat thinking” to get people’s gut reactions to the previous discussion, then “Green Hat thinking” to identify other possible solutions that are more tailored to the group’s situation or completely new approaches. At the end of a sequence, the Blue Hat would want to summarize what was said and begin a new sequence. To successfully use this method, the person wearing the Blue Hat should be familiar with different sequences and plan some of the thinking patterns ahead of time based on the problem and the group members. Each round of thinking should be limited to a certain time frame (two to five minutes) to keep the discussion moving.

  • This decision-making method has been praised because it allows group members to “switch gears” in their thinking and allows for role playing, which lets people express ideas more freely. How can this help enhance critical thinking? Which combination of hats do you think would be best for a critical thinking sequence?
  • What combinations of hats might be useful if the leader wanted to break the larger group up into pairs and why? For example, what kind of thinking would result from putting Yellow and Red together, Black and White together, or Red and White together, and so on?
  • Based on your preferred ways of thinking and your personality, which hat would be the best fit for you? Which would be the most challenging? Why?

Influences on Decision Making

Many factors influence the decision-making process. For example, how might a group’s independence or access to resources affect the decisions they make? What potential advantages and disadvantages come with decisions made by groups that are more or less similar in terms of personality and cultural identities? In this section, we will explore how situational, personality, and cultural influences affect decision making in groups.

Situational Influences on Decision Making

A group’s situational context affects decision making. One key situational element is the degree of freedom that the group has to make its own decisions, secure its own resources, and initiate its own actions. Some groups have to go through multiple approval processes before they can do anything, while others are self-directed, self-governing, and self-sustaining. Another situational influence is uncertainty. In general, groups deal with more uncertainty in decision making than do individuals because of the increased number of variables that comes with adding more people to a situation. Individual group members can’t know what other group members are thinking, whether or not they are doing their work, and how committed they are to the group. So the size of a group is a powerful situational influence, as it adds to uncertainty and complicates communication.

Access to information also influences a group. First, the nature of the group’s task or problem affects its ability to get information. Group members can more easily make decisions about a problem when other groups have similarly experienced it. Even if the problem is complex and serious, the group can learn from other situations and apply what it learns. Second, the group must have access to flows of information. Access to archives, electronic databases, and individuals with relevant experience is necessary to obtain any relevant information about similar problems or to do research on a new or unique problem. In this regard, group members’ formal and information network connections also become important situational influences.

14.3.3N

The urgency of a decision can have a major influence on the decision-making process. As a situation becomes more urgent, it requires more specific decision-making methods and types of communication.

Judith E. Bell – Urgent – CC BY-SA 2.0.

The origin and urgency of a problem are also situational factors that influence decision making. In terms of origin, problems usually occur in one of four ways:

  • Something goes wrong. Group members must decide how to fix or stop something. Example—a firehouse crew finds out that half of the building is contaminated with mold and must be closed down.
  • Expectations change or increase. Group members must innovate more efficient or effective ways of doing something. Example—a firehouse crew finds out that the district they are responsible for is being expanded.
  • Something goes wrong and expectations change or increase. Group members must fix/stop and become more efficient/effective. Example—the firehouse crew has to close half the building and must start responding to more calls due to the expanding district.
  • The problem existed from the beginning. Group members must go back to the origins of the situation and walk through and analyze the steps again to decide what can be done differently. Example—a firehouse crew has consistently had to work with minimal resources in terms of building space and firefighting tools.

In each of the cases, the need for a decision may be more or less urgent depending on how badly something is going wrong, how high the expectations have been raised, or the degree to which people are fed up with a broken system. Decisions must be made in situations ranging from crisis level to mundane.

Personality Influences on Decision Making

A long-studied typology of value orientations that affect decision making consists of the following types of decision maker: the economic, the aesthetic, the theoretical, the social, the political, and the religious (Spranger, 1928).

  • The economic decision maker makes decisions based on what is practical and useful.
  • The aesthetic decision maker makes decisions based on form and harmony, desiring a solution that is elegant and in sync with the surroundings.
  • The theoretical decision maker wants to discover the truth through rationality.
  • The social decision maker emphasizes the personal impact of a decision and sympathizes with those who may be affected by it.
  • The political decision maker is interested in power and influence and views people and/or property as divided into groups that have different value.
  • The religious decision maker seeks to identify with a larger purpose, works to unify others under that goal, and commits to a viewpoint, often denying one side and being dedicated to the other.

In the United States, economic, political, and theoretical decision making tend to be more prevalent decision-making orientations, which likely corresponds to the individualistic cultural orientation with its emphasis on competition and efficiency. But situational context, as we discussed before, can also influence our decision making.

14.3.5

Personality affects decision making. For example, “economic” decision makers decide based on what is practical and useful.

One Way Stock – Tough Decisions Ahead – CC BY-ND 2.0.

The personalities of group members, especially leaders and other active members, affect the climate of the group. Group member personalities can be categorized based on where they fall on a continuum anchored by the following descriptors: dominant/submissive, friendly/unfriendly, and instrumental/emotional (Cragan & Wright, 1999). The more group members there are in any extreme of these categories, the more likely that the group climate will also shift to resemble those characteristics.

  • Dominant versus submissive. Group members that are more dominant act more independently and directly, initiate conversations, take up more space, make more direct eye contact, seek leadership positions, and take control over decision-making processes. More submissive members are reserved, contribute to the group only when asked to, avoid eye contact, and leave their personal needs and thoughts unvoiced or give into the suggestions of others.
  • Friendly versus unfriendly. Group members on the friendly side of the continuum find a balance between talking and listening, don’t try to win at the expense of other group members, are flexible but not weak, and value democratic decision making. Unfriendly group members are disagreeable, indifferent, withdrawn, and selfish, which leads them to either not invest in decision making or direct it in their own interest rather than in the interest of the group.
  • Instrumental versus emotional. Instrumental group members are emotionally neutral, objective, analytical, task-oriented, and committed followers, which leads them to work hard and contribute to the group’s decision making as long as it is orderly and follows agreed-on rules. Emotional group members are creative, playful, independent, unpredictable, and expressive, which leads them to make rash decisions, resist group norms or decision-making structures, and switch often from relational to task focus.

Cultural Context and Decision Making

Just like neighborhoods, schools, and countries, small groups vary in terms of their degree of similarity and difference. Demographic changes in the United States and increases in technology that can bring different people together make it more likely that we will be interacting in more and more heterogeneous groups (Allen, 2011). Some small groups are more homogenous, meaning the members are more similar, and some are more heterogeneous, meaning the members are more different. Diversity and difference within groups has advantages and disadvantages. In terms of advantages, research finds that, in general, groups that are culturally heterogeneous have better overall performance than more homogenous groups (Haslett & Ruebush, 1999). Additionally, when group members have time to get to know each other and competently communicate across their differences, the advantages of diversity include better decision making due to different perspectives (Thomas, 1999). Unfortunately, groups often operate under time constraints and other pressures that make the possibility for intercultural dialogue and understanding difficult. The main disadvantage of heterogeneous groups is the possibility for conflict, but given that all groups experience conflict, this isn’t solely due to the presence of diversity. We will now look more specifically at how some of the cultural value orientations we’ve learned about already in this book can play out in groups with international diversity and how domestic diversity in terms of demographics can also influence group decision making.

International Diversity in Group Interactions

Cultural value orientations such as individualism/collectivism, power distance, and high-/low-context communication styles all manifest on a continuum of communication behaviors and can influence group decision making. Group members from individualistic cultures are more likely to value task-oriented, efficient, and direct communication. This could manifest in behaviors such as dividing up tasks into individual projects before collaboration begins and then openly debating ideas during discussion and decision making. Additionally, people from cultures that value individualism are more likely to openly express dissent from a decision, essentially expressing their disagreement with the group. Group members from collectivistic cultures are more likely to value relationships over the task at hand. Because of this, they also tend to value conformity and face-saving (often indirect) communication. This could manifest in behaviors such as establishing norms that include periods of socializing to build relationships before task-oriented communication like negotiations begin or norms that limit public disagreement in favor of more indirect communication that doesn’t challenge the face of other group members or the group’s leader. In a group composed of people from a collectivistic culture, each member would likely play harmonizing roles, looking for signs of conflict and resolving them before they become public.

Power distance can also affect group interactions. Some cultures rank higher on power-distance scales, meaning they value hierarchy, make decisions based on status, and believe that people have a set place in society that is fairly unchangeable. Group members from high-power-distance cultures would likely appreciate a strong designated leader who exhibits a more directive leadership style and prefer groups in which members have clear and assigned roles. In a group that is homogenous in terms of having a high-power-distance orientation, members with higher status would be able to openly provide information, and those with lower status may not provide information unless a higher status member explicitly seeks it from them. Low-power-distance cultures do not place as much value and meaning on status and believe that all group members can participate in decision making. Group members from low-power-distance cultures would likely freely speak their mind during a group meeting and prefer a participative leadership style.

How much meaning is conveyed through the context surrounding verbal communication can also affect group communication. Some cultures have a high-context communication style in which much of the meaning in an interaction is conveyed through context such as nonverbal cues and silence. Group members from high-context cultures may avoid saying something directly, assuming that other group members will understand the intended meaning even if the message is indirect. So if someone disagrees with a proposed course of action, he or she may say, “Let’s discuss this tomorrow,” and mean, “I don’t think we should do this.” Such indirect communication is also a face-saving strategy that is common in collectivistic cultures. Other cultures have a low-context communication style that places more importance on the meaning conveyed through words than through context or nonverbal cues. Group members from low-context cultures often say what they mean and mean what they say. For example, if someone doesn’t like an idea, they might say, “I think we should consider more options. This one doesn’t seem like the best we can do.”

In any of these cases, an individual from one culture operating in a group with people of a different cultural orientation could adapt to the expectations of the host culture, especially if that person possesses a high degree of intercultural communication competence (ICC). Additionally, people with high ICC can also adapt to a group member with a different cultural orientation than the host culture. Even though these cultural orientations connect to values that affect our communication in fairly consistent ways, individuals may exhibit different communication behaviors depending on their own individual communication style and the situation.

Domestic Diversity and Group Communication

While it is becoming more likely that we will interact in small groups with international diversity, we are guaranteed to interact in groups that are diverse in terms of the cultural identities found within a single country or the subcultures found within a larger cultural group.

Gender stereotypes sometimes influence the roles that people play within a group. For example, the stereotype that women are more nurturing than men may lead group members (both male and female) to expect that women will play the role of supporters or harmonizers within the group. Since women have primarily performed secretarial work since the 1900s, it may also be expected that women will play the role of recorder. In both of these cases, stereotypical notions of gender place women in roles that are typically not as valued in group communication. The opposite is true for men. In terms of leadership, despite notable exceptions, research shows that men fill an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of leadership positions. We are socialized to see certain behaviors by men as indicative of leadership abilities, even though they may not be. For example, men are often perceived to contribute more to a group because they tend to speak first when asked a question or to fill a silence and are perceived to talk more about task-related matters than relationally oriented matters. Both of these tendencies create a perception that men are more engaged with the task. Men are also socialized to be more competitive and self-congratulatory, meaning that their communication may be seen as dedicated and their behaviors seen as powerful, and that when their work isn’t noticed they will be more likely to make it known to the group rather than take silent credit. Even though we know that the relational elements of a group are crucial for success, even in high-performance teams, that work is not as valued in our society as the task-related work.

Despite the fact that some communication patterns and behaviors related to our typical (and stereotypical) gender socialization affect how we interact in and form perceptions of others in groups, the differences in group communication that used to be attributed to gender in early group communication research seem to be diminishing. This is likely due to the changing organizational cultures from which much group work emerges, which have now had more than sixty years to adjust to women in the workplace. It is also due to a more nuanced understanding of gender-based research, which doesn’t take a stereotypical view from the beginning as many of the early male researchers did. Now, instead of biological sex being assumed as a factor that creates inherent communication differences, group communication scholars see that men and women both exhibit a range of behaviors that are more or less feminine or masculine. It is these gendered behaviors, and not a person’s gender, that seem to have more of an influence on perceptions of group communication. Interestingly, group interactions are still masculinist in that male and female group members prefer a more masculine communication style for task leaders and that both males and females in this role are more likely to adapt to a more masculine communication style. Conversely, men who take on social-emotional leadership behaviors adopt a more feminine communication style. In short, it seems that although masculine communication traits are more often associated with high status positions in groups, both men and women adapt to this expectation and are evaluated similarly (Haslett & Ruebush, 1999).

Other demographic categories are also influential in group communication and decision making. In general, group members have an easier time communicating when they are more similar than different in terms of race and age. This ease of communication can make group work more efficient, but the homogeneity may sacrifice some creativity. As we learned earlier, groups that are diverse (e.g., they have members of different races and generations) benefit from the diversity of perspectives in terms of the quality of decision making and creativity of output.

In terms of age, for the first time since industrialization began, it is common to have three generations of people (and sometimes four) working side by side in an organizational setting. Although four generations often worked together in early factories, they were segregated based on their age group, and a hierarchy existed with older workers at the top and younger workers at the bottom. Today, however, generations interact regularly, and it is not uncommon for an older person to have a leader or supervisor who is younger than him or her (Allen, 2011). The current generations in the US workplace and consequently in work-based groups include the following:

  • The Silent Generation. Born between 1925 and 1942, currently in their midsixties to mideighties, this is the smallest generation in the workforce right now, as many have retired or left for other reasons. This generation includes people who were born during the Great Depression or the early part of World War II, many of whom later fought in the Korean War (Clarke, 1970).
  • The Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, currently in their late forties to midsixties, this is the largest generation in the workforce right now. Baby boomers are the most populous generation born in US history, and they are working longer than previous generations, which means they will remain the predominant force in organizations for ten to twenty more years.
  • Generation X. Born between 1965 and 1981, currently in their early thirties to midforties, this generation was the first to see technology like cell phones and the Internet make its way into classrooms and our daily lives. Compared to previous generations, “Gen-Xers” are more diverse in terms of race, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation and also have a greater appreciation for and understanding of diversity.
  • Generation Y. Born between 1982 and 2000, “Millennials” as they are also called are currently in their late teens up to about thirty years old. This generation is not as likely to remember a time without technology such as computers and cell phones. They are just starting to enter into the workforce and have been greatly affected by the economic crisis of the late 2000s, experiencing significantly high unemployment rates.

The benefits and challenges that come with diversity of group members are important to consider. Since we will all work in diverse groups, we should be prepared to address potential challenges in order to reap the benefits. Diverse groups may be wise to coordinate social interactions outside of group time in order to find common ground that can help facilitate interaction and increase group cohesion. We should be sensitive but not let sensitivity create fear of “doing something wrong” that then prevents us from having meaningful interactions. Reviewing Chapter 8 “Culture and Communication” will give you useful knowledge to help you navigate both international and domestic diversity and increase your communication competence in small groups and elsewhere.

Key Takeaways

  • Every problem has common components: an undesirable situation, a desired situation, and obstacles between the undesirable and desirable situations. Every problem also has a set of characteristics that vary among problems, including task difficulty, number of possible solutions, group member interest in the problem, group familiarity with the problem, and the need for solution acceptance.

The group problem-solving process has five steps:

  • Define the problem by creating a problem statement that summarizes it.
  • Analyze the problem and create a problem question that can guide solution generation.
  • Generate possible solutions. Possible solutions should be offered and listed without stopping to evaluate each one.
  • Evaluate the solutions based on their credibility, completeness, and worth. Groups should also assess the potential effects of the narrowed list of solutions.
  • Implement and assess the solution. Aside from enacting the solution, groups should determine how they will know the solution is working or not.
  • Before a group makes a decision, it should brainstorm possible solutions. Group communication scholars suggest that groups (1) do a warm-up brainstorming session; (2) do an actual brainstorming session in which ideas are not evaluated, wild ideas are encouraged, quantity not quality of ideas is the goal, and new combinations of ideas are encouraged; (3) eliminate duplicate ideas; and (4) clarify, organize, and evaluate ideas. In order to guide the idea-generation process and invite equal participation from group members, the group may also elect to use the nominal group technique.
  • Common decision-making techniques include majority rule, minority rule, and consensus rule. With majority rule, only a majority, usually one-half plus one, must agree before a decision is made. With minority rule, a designated authority or expert has final say over a decision, and the input of group members may or may not be invited or considered. With consensus rule, all members of the group must agree on the same decision.

Several factors influence the decision-making process:

  • Situational factors include the degree of freedom a group has to make its own decisions, the level of uncertainty facing the group and its task, the size of the group, the group’s access to information, and the origin and urgency of the problem.
  • Personality influences on decision making include a person’s value orientation (economic, aesthetic, theoretical, political, or religious), and personality traits (dominant/submissive, friendly/unfriendly, and instrumental/emotional).
  • Cultural influences on decision making include the heterogeneity or homogeneity of the group makeup; cultural values and characteristics such as individualism/collectivism, power distance, and high-/low-context communication styles; and gender and age differences.
  • Scenario 1. Task difficulty is high, number of possible solutions is high, group interest in problem is high, group familiarity with problem is low, and need for solution acceptance is high.
  • Scenario 2. Task difficulty is low, number of possible solutions is low, group interest in problem is low, group familiarity with problem is high, and need for solution acceptance is low.
  • Scenario 1: Academic. A professor asks his or her class to decide whether the final exam should be an in-class or take-home exam.
  • Scenario 2: Professional. A group of coworkers must decide which person from their department to nominate for a company-wide award.
  • Scenario 3: Personal. A family needs to decide how to divide the belongings and estate of a deceased family member who did not leave a will.
  • Scenario 4: Civic. A local branch of a political party needs to decide what five key issues it wants to include in the national party’s platform.
  • Group communication researchers have found that heterogeneous groups (composed of diverse members) have advantages over homogenous (more similar) groups. Discuss a group situation you have been in where diversity enhanced your and/or the group’s experience.

Adams, K., and Gloria G. Galanes, Communicating in Groups: Applications and Skills , 7th ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2009), 220–21.

Allen, B. J., Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity , 2nd ed. (Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2011), 5.

Bormann, E. G., and Nancy C. Bormann, Effective Small Group Communication , 4th ed. (Santa Rosa, CA: Burgess CA, 1988), 112–13.

Clarke, G., “The Silent Generation Revisited,” Time, June 29, 1970, 46.

Cragan, J. F., and David W. Wright, Communication in Small Group Discussions: An Integrated Approach , 3rd ed. (St. Paul, MN: West Publishing, 1991), 77–78.

de Bono, E., Six Thinking Hats (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1985).

Delbecq, A. L., and Andrew H. Ven de Ven, “A Group Process Model for Problem Identification and Program Planning,” The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 7, no. 4 (1971): 466–92.

Haslett, B. B., and Jenn Ruebush, “What Differences Do Individual Differences in Groups Make?: The Effects of Individuals, Culture, and Group Composition,” in The Handbook of Group Communication Theory and Research , ed. Lawrence R. Frey (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999), 133.

Napier, R. W., and Matti K. Gershenfeld, Groups: Theory and Experience , 7th ed. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2004), 292.

Osborn, A. F., Applied Imagination (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959).

Spranger, E., Types of Men (New York: Steckert, 1928).

Stanton, C., “How to Deliver Group Presentations: The Unified Team Approach,” Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills , November 3, 2009, accessed August 28, 2012, http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/group-presentations-unified-team-approach .

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Communication in the Real World Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

BUS403: Negotiations and Conflict Management (2016.A.01)

Problem-solving and decision-making in groups.

Read this section to learn about common components/characteristics of problems and the five steps in group problem-solving. This article also describes the brainstorming and discussion that should occur before group decision-making, compares and contrasts decision-making techniques, and discusses various influences on decision-making.

Group Problem-Solving Process

steps of problem solving decision making process

Group problem solving can be a confusing puzzle unless it is approached systematically.

There are several variations of similar problem-solving models based on US American scholar John Dewey's reflective thinking process. As you read through the steps in the process, think about how you can apply what we learned regarding the general and specific elements of problems. Some of the following steps are straightforward, and they are things we would logically do when faced with a problem. However, taking a deliberate and systematic approach to problem solving has been shown to benefit group functioning and performance. A deliberate approach is especially beneficial for groups that do not have an established history of working together and will only be able to meet occasionally. Although a group should attend to each step of the process, group leaders or other group members who facilitate problem solving should be cautious not to dogmatically follow each element of the process or force a group along. Such a lack of flexibility could limit group member input and negatively affect the group's cohesion and climate.

Step 1: Define the Problem

Define the problem by considering the three elements shared by every problem: the current undesirable situation, the goal or more desirable situation, and obstacles in the way. At this stage, group members share what they know about the current situation, without proposing solutions or evaluating the information. Here are some good questions to ask during this stage: What is the current difficulty? How did we come to know that the difficulty exists? Who/what is involved? Why is it meaningful/urgent/important? What have the effects been so far? What, if any, elements of the difficulty require clarification? At the end of this stage, the group should be able to compose a single sentence that summarizes the problem called a problem statement . Avoid wording in the problem statement or question that hints at potential solutions. A small group formed to investigate ethical violations of city officials could use the following problem statement: "Our state does not currently have a mechanism for citizens to report suspected ethical violations by city officials".

Step 2: Analyze the Problem

During this step a group should analyze the problem and the group's relationship to the problem. Whereas the first step involved exploring the "what" related to the problem, this step focuses on the "why". At this stage, group members can discuss the potential causes of the difficulty. Group members may also want to begin setting out an agenda or timeline for the group's problem-solving process, looking forward to the other steps. To fully analyze the problem, the group can discuss the five common problem variables discussed before. Here are two examples of questions that the group formed to address ethics violations might ask: Why doesn't our city have an ethics reporting mechanism? Do cities of similar size have such a mechanism? Once the problem has been analyzed, the group can pose a problem question that will guide the group as it generates possible solutions. "How can citizens report suspected ethical violations of city officials and how will such reports be processed and addressed?" As you can see, the problem question is more complex than the problem statement, since the group has moved on to more in-depth discussion of the problem during step 2.

Step 3: Generate Possible Solutions

During this step, group members generate possible solutions to the problem. Again, solutions should not be evaluated at this point, only proposed and clarified. The question should be what could we do to address this problem, not what should we do to address it. It is perfectly OK for a group member to question another person's idea by asking something like "What do you mean?" or "Could you explain your reasoning more?" Discussions at this stage may reveal a need to return to previous steps to better define or more fully analyze a problem. Since many problems are multifaceted, it is necessary for group members to generate solutions for each part of the problem separately, making sure to have multiple solutions for each part. Stopping the solution-generating process prematurely can lead to groupthink. For the problem question previously posed, the group would need to generate solutions for all three parts of the problem included in the question. Possible solutions for the first part of the problem (How can citizens report ethical violations?) may include "online reporting system, e-mail, in-person, anonymously, on-the-record," and so on. Possible solutions for the second part of the problem (How will reports be processed?) may include "daily by a newly appointed ethics officer, weekly by a nonpartisan nongovernment employee," and so on. Possible solutions for the third part of the problem (How will reports be addressed?) may include "by a newly appointed ethics commission, by the accused's supervisor, by the city manager," and so on.

Step 4: Evaluate Solutions

During this step, solutions can be critically evaluated based on their credibility, completeness, and worth. Once the potential solutions have been narrowed based on more obvious differences in relevance and/or merit, the group should analyze each solution based on its potential effects - especially negative effects. Groups that are required to report the rationale for their decision or whose decisions may be subject to public scrutiny would be wise to make a set list of criteria for evaluating each solution. Additionally, solutions can be evaluated based on how well they fit with the group's charge and the abilities of the group. To do this, group members may ask, "Does this solution live up to the original purpose or mission of the group?" and "Can the solution actually be implemented with our current resources and connections?" and "How will this solution be supported, funded, enforced, and assessed?" Secondary tensions and substantive conflict, two concepts discussed earlier, emerge during this step of problem solving, and group members will need to employ effective critical thinking and listening skills. Decision making is part of the larger process of problem solving and it plays a prominent role in this step. While there are several fairly similar models for problem solving, there are many varied decision-making techniques that groups can use. For example, to narrow the list of proposed solutions, group members may decide by majority vote, by weighing the pros and cons, or by discussing them until a consensus is reached. There are also more complex decision-making models like the "six hats method," which we will discuss later. Once the final decision is reached, the group leader or facilitator should confirm that the group is in agreement. It may be beneficial to let the group break for a while or even to delay the final decision until a later meeting to allow people time to evaluate it outside of the group context.

Step 5: Implement and Assess the Solution

Implementing the solution requires some advanced planning, and it should not be rushed unless the group is operating under strict time restraints or delay may lead to some kind of harm. Although some solutions can be implemented immediately, others may take days, months, or years. As was noted earlier, it may be beneficial for groups to poll those who will be affected by the solution as to their opinion of it or even to do a pilot test to observe the effectiveness of the solution and how people react to it. Before implementation, groups should also determine how and when they would assess the effectiveness of the solution by asking, "How will we know if the solution is working or not?" Since solution assessment will vary based on whether or not the group is disbanded, groups should also consider the following questions: If the group disbands after implementation, who will be responsible for assessing the solution? If the solution fails, will the same group reconvene or will a new group be formed?

steps of problem solving decision making process

Once a solution has been reached and the group has the "green light" to implement it, it should proceed deliberately and cautiously, making sure to consider possible consequences and address them as needed. Certain elements of the solution may need to be delegated out to various people inside and outside the group. Group members may also be assigned to implement a particular part of the solution based on their role in the decision making or because it connects to their area of expertise. Likewise, group members may be tasked with publicizing the solution or "selling" it to a particular group of stakeholders. Last, the group should consider its future. In some cases, the group will get to decide if it will stay together and continue working on other tasks or if it will disband. In other cases, outside forces determine the group's fate.

"Getting Competent"

Problem Solving and Group Presentations Giving a group presentation requires that individual group members and the group as a whole solve many problems and make many decisions. Although having more people involved in a presentation increases logistical difficulties and has the potential to create more conflict, a well-prepared and well-delivered group presentation can be more engaging and effective than a typical presentation. The main problems facing a group giving a presentation are (1) dividing responsibilities, (2) coordinating schedules and time management, and (3) working out the logistics of the presentation delivery. In terms of dividing responsibilities, assigning individual work at the first meeting and then trying to fit it all together before the presentation (which is what many college students do when faced with a group project) is not the recommended method. Integrating content and visual aids created by several different people into a seamless final product takes time and effort, and the person "stuck" with this job at the end usually ends up developing some resentment toward his or her group members. While it's OK for group members to do work independently outside of group meetings, spend time working together to help set up some standards for content and formatting expectations that will help make later integration of work easier. Taking the time to complete one part of the presentation together can help set those standards for later individual work. Discuss the roles that various group members will play openly so there isn't role confusion. There could be one point person for keeping track of the group's progress and schedule, one point person for communication, one point person for content integration, one point person for visual aids, and so on. Each person shouldn't do all that work on his or her own but help focus the group's attention on his or her specific area during group meetings. Scheduling group meetings is one of the most challenging problems groups face, given people's busy lives. From the beginning, it should be clearly communicated that the group needs to spend considerable time in face-to-face meetings, and group members should know that they may have to make an occasional sacrifice to attend. Especially important is the commitment to scheduling time to rehearse the presentation. Consider creating a contract of group guidelines that includes expectations for meeting attendance to increase group members' commitment. Group presentations require members to navigate many logistics of their presentation. While it may be easier for a group to assign each member to create a five-minute segment and then transition from one person to the next, this is definitely not the most engaging method. Creating a master presentation and then assigning individual speakers creates a more fluid and dynamic presentation and allows everyone to become familiar with the content, which can help if a person doesn't show up to present and during the question-and-answer section. Once the content of the presentation is complete, figure out introductions, transitions, visual aids, and the use of time and space. In terms of introductions, figure out if one person will introduce all the speakers at the beginning, if speakers will introduce themselves at the beginning, or if introductions will occur as the presentation progresses. In terms of transitions, make sure each person has included in his or her speaking notes when presentation duties switch from one person to the next. Visual aids have the potential to cause hiccups in a group presentation if they aren't fluidly integrated. Practicing with visual aids and having one person control them may help prevent this. Know how long your presentation is and know how you're going to use the space. Presenters should know how long the whole presentation should be and how long each of their segments should be so that everyone can share the responsibility of keeping time. Also consider the size and layout of the presentation space. You don't want presenters huddled in a corner until it's their turn to speak or trapped behind furniture when their turn comes around.

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Decision-making is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives, influencing everything from the everyday choices of what to eat for breakfast to the complex deliberations that shape our careers and personal relationships. Whether it’s an individual pondering a personal decision or an organization strategizing its next move, making a decision is universal and vital.

In this article, we will discuss what decision-making is, what are the 7 steps of a decision-making process , and more.

Decision making: Meaning, Nature, Role and Relationship between Planning and Decision-making

Table of Content

What is Decision Making?

7 effective steps of decision-making, nature of decision-making, role of decision-making  , relationship between planning and decision-making.

Decision-making is an integral part of everyday life and a crucial component of management in organizations. It involves selecting the best action from various options by considering resources, outcomes, and personal preferences. This process includes identifying a situation, gathering and analyzing information, evaluating the pros and cons, and choosing a path forward. Decisions, whether made through rational analysis or instinct, significantly affect all involved parties.

Effective decision-making, which entails evaluating all possible outcomes and choosing the most beneficial one, is essential for personal, professional, and organizational success. Conversely, poor decisions can lead to losses and tarnish reputations. Thus, developing a structured approach to decision-making is vital for achieving favorable outcomes.

“Decision-making is the selection based on some criteria from two or more possible alternatives.“ – George R. Terry “A decision is an act of choice, wherein an executive form a conclusion about what must be done in a given situation. A decision represents a course of behaviour chosen from several possible alternatives.“ – D.E. Mc. Farland

1. Identifying the Decision

The initial step in decision-making is identifying the precise issue that needs resolution or the query that demands an answer. It’s essential to accurately define the decision at hand. Incorrectly identifying the problem or choosing an overly broad issue can derail your decision-making efforts from the get-go. For goals associated with the decision, ensure they are quantifiable and bound by time.

2. Collecting Relevant Information

Once the decision has been indetified, the next phase involves collecting relevant information to that decision. This includes an internal review to understand past successes and failures within your organization that relate to your decision. Additionally, acquiring information from external sources, such as academic research, market analysis, or possibly feedback from consulting services, is crucial. However, be wary of information overload, as it can overwhelm and complicate the decision-making process.

3. Exploring Possible Alternatives

Armed with the relevant data, it’s now time to outline potential solutions to your problem. Typically, there are several avenues to consider for achieving a goal. For instance, if the aim is to boost social media engagement, alternatives could range from investing in paid social ads, tweaking your organic social media tactics, or employing a blend of both strategies.

4. Evaluating the Alternatives

Having pinpointed several potential solutions, the next step involves assessing the merits and demerits of these alternatives. Review past instances of success within similar contexts, and analyze your organization’s past achievements and setbacks. Evaluate the risks associated with each option against the potential benefits.

5. Making a Choice

This stage is where the actual decision is made. Ideally, by this point, you’ve clearly identified the decision to be made, gathered all necessary information, and considered various possible directions. Now, you’re equipped to make an informed choice.

6. Implementing the Decision

With the decision made, it’s time to act. Formulate a plan to bring your decision to fruition. Create a detailed project plan based on your decision, assigning specific tasks to members of your team to execute the plan effectively.

7. Evaluating the Outcome

After a set period, which was determined in the first step, revisit your decision to evaluate its effectiveness. Did it address the problem? Did it achieve the intended goal? If the answer is yes, document the successful strategies for future reference. If not, take this as a learning opportunity to refine your decision-making process for future endeavors.

The nature of decision-making can be characterized by several key factors, including:

  • Goal-oriented: Effective decision-making hinges on setting clear goals and selecting strategies to achieve them, while remaining unbiased and avoiding personal prejudices that may affect judgment.
  • Dynamic Process: Decision-making is a dynamic process as it involves a time dimension and time lag. The techniques used for choice vary with the type of problem involved and the time available. 
  • Continuous or ongoing process: It is a continuous and ongoing process as managers have to take a series of decisions.
  • Intellectual or Rational process: As decisions are products of reasoning, deliberation and evaluation, decision-making is an intellectual and rational process.
  • Set of Alternatives: Decision-making implies a set of alternatives as a decision problem arises only when there are two or more alternatives. No decision is to be made if there is only one alternative.                             

Thus, decision-making is generally a complex and dynamic process that requires taking decisions that give the best-desired outcomes and involves analyzing possibilities, taking risks into account, acquiring information, and working with others.

Making decisions plays a key part in the life of an individual and any organization. The accomplishment of personal and organizational objectives, enhanced performance, risk minimization, and success maintenance all depend on effective decision-making. Here are some key roles of decision-making:

  • Strategic planning: Decision-making is an important element of strategic planning. It provides a framework for taking decisions that determine the goals or objectives of the organization.  
  • Problem-solving: Decision-making helps individuals or organizations to identify all the possible solutions and decide the best course of action. It comprises evaluating the current situation, identifying the cause of the issue, balancing them, and selecting the best course of action.  
  • Opportunity identification: Making decisions enables one to recognize and take advantage of opportunities. It allows for identifying potential advantages and determining if they are consistent with the objectives of the person or organization.
  • Resource allocation: Decision-making is essential for allocating resources effectively, whether it is the allocation of budget, time, or personnel. It requires evaluating the available resources, determining the priorities, and allocating resources to the situation and goals of the organization.  
  • Risk management: Decision-making is also important in managing risks. Decision makers must analyze the potential risks and benefits of different options and make decisions based on the analysis done.  
  • Goal achievement: Effective decision-making is an important tool for achieving personal and organizational goals. It involves setting goals, determining courses of action to achieve those goals, and evaluating progress along the way.  
  • Continuous improvement: Good decision-making requires continuous improvement. Organizations must evaluate their performance, determine where they can make improvements, and then decide what adjustments will best improve their functioning.  

Therefore, the general purpose of decision-making is to give people and organizations direction and advice so they may succeed by making decisions that are in line with their priorities.

Making decisions and planning are closely interrelated activities. Making decisions is frequently seen as the most important step in the planning process. This is because planning enables establishing objectives, choosing practicable courses of action, and evaluating potential outcomes, all of which are essential processes for making effective decisions.

Relationship between Planning and Decision-making

Following are some ways in which planning and decision-making are related:

  • Planning acts as a foundation for decision-making: Planning is the process of setting goals, determining resources, and creating a strategy that helps in the accomplishment of an organization’s goals. A plan acts as a framework for how to achieve the set objectives.  
  • Decision-making is necessary for effective planning: Making decisions is essential to the planning process to choose the appropriate course of action for achieving the goals. Making choices regarding resources, priorities, deadlines, and other aspects is essential in creating a thorough and successful plan.
  • Planning and decision-making are a constant process: Planning and decision-making are ongoing processes that require constant evaluation and revision. Decisions made during the planning phase may need to be revised as new information arises, and thus, planning may need to be adjusted based on the results of previous decisions.
  • Planning provides a framework for decision-making during implementation: Making decisions is required to successfully carry out a strategy once it has been created. The plan offers a framework for choosing how to allocate resources and handle other problems.
  • Both require collaboration and communication: Effective planning and decision-making also require a certain level of collaboration and communication. Planning often involves working together with managers, stakeholders, executives, etc. Similarly, decision-making also demands multiple opinions and perspectives be taken into account before choosing any course of action.  

Overall, planning and decision-making are repetitive processes that demand constant review and modification. To make sure that objectives are met, and resources are used efficiently, planning and decision-making must adapt according to the changing conditions and information.

In conclusion, the art of decision making is a critical skill that influences every facet of our lives, from personal choices to professional strategies. Mastering decision making involves understanding the balance between intuition and analysis, recognizing the impact of biases, and applying a structured approach to navigate through options.

Thus, cultivating strong decision-making skills is indispensable for anyone looking to navigate the challenges of the modern world with confidence and understanding.

What is Decision Making – FAQs

What is the decision-making means.

Decision-making is the process of choosing the best option from multiple alternatives to achieve a desired outcome. It involves identifying a problem, gathering information, evaluating options, and making a choice.

What are the 5 steps in decision-making?

The 5 steps in decision-making are: Identify the problem. Gather information. Evaluate alternatives. Make a decision. Implement and assess.

What is the significance of decision-making?

Decision-making is crucial for achieving goals, solving problems, and ensuring success in personal and organizational contexts.

What are the 7 elements of decision-making?

The 7 elements of decision-making are: Identify the decision. Gather information. Identify alternatives. Weigh evidence. Choose among alternatives. Take action. Review decision and consequences.

What are the five importance of decision-making?

The five importance of Decision-making are: Guides Goal Achievement: Decision-making directs efforts towards achieving personal and organizational goals efficiently. Problem Solving: It’s essential for addressing and resolving issues effectively. Resource Utilization: Optimizes the use of available resources to maximize outcomes. Facilitates Innovation: Encourages creative solutions and new ideas for growth and improvement. Risk Management: Helps in assessing and mitigating potential risks, leading to more informed and safer choices.

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Rita Watson MPH

Decision-Making

Decision strategies: 4 steps to success, what is important is making the decision rather than obsessing over it..

Posted March 23, 2024 | Reviewed by Ray Parker

  • Research shows decisions involve balancing thinking things through and trusting your gut feeling.
  • A four-step approach can help make stress-free decisions.
  • By journaling, you can learn how to manage stress and potentially identify your intuition's "edge."

Source: Courtesy of RE Watson

Whether at home or in the workplace, the choices we make range from snap decisions to thoughtful, strategic ones. Styles include trusting your instincts, weighing the pros and cons, and asking the advice of friends. Or choose to not decide hoping that a particular situation will resolve itself. What is the most successful strategy? According to a research report in the European Management Journal :

“Rationality and intuition are important dimensions of the strategic decision process...the interplay between rationality and intuition [was] based on a sample of 103 strategic decisions made by service firms in Greece.” (Thanos 2023)

Why Relying on Intuition or Trusting Instincts Is a Valid Decision-Making Strategy

In researching a book on decision-making for women, the power of intuition was evident. Sometimes referred to as a sixth sense or women’s intuition, researchers have documented the value of this strategy with men as well.

In Frontiers in Psychology, "If it feels right, do it," a preliminary investigation regarding high-level coaches and intuition determined:

“Initially intuitive than deliberate decision-making was a particular feature, offering participants an immediate check on the accuracy and validity of the decision....Irrespective of how they may best be developed, intuition and analysis are both important components of expertise...." (Collins 2016)

While it may seem that relying on intuition is risky, experience often gives substance to intuition.

When children want something, they ask. As adults, we often become tangled in the confusion of what we want for ourselves and what we think others would like for us. We tend to forget the simplicity of stating what we wish.

4 Steps to Making Stress-Free Decisions

When faced with a major decision, these steps might be helpful:

Define what you want to achieve. Assess the pros and cons or what you perceive as risks and benefits. Consider alternatives if you are concerned about the opinions of others. Make a choice and follow through without second-guessing yourself.

1. Be honest with yourself.

Think of what you want. If you know the answer, then why not just say so? You might consider the feelings or opinions of others, whether family, friends, or colleagues. Despite your consideration, you might be sabotaging yourself.

2. Define the pros and cons

Assess the situation by making a pros and cons checklist. Write all the reasons that a decision will benefit you alone. Then, write the reasons that your decision might make others uncomfortable or unsupportive.

3. Consider alternatives

Ask yourself if there is a way to please yourself and others. If not, is there a compromise? In decision-making groups, women who hid their feelings later admitted that they were afraid of making the wrong decision. Very often, when asked what they meant by "the wrong decision," they said they were afraid that their decision would not please others.

4. Make a decision and follow through

Once you have made your decision known, follow through instead of second-guessing yourself or asking your friends for approval or their opinions.

The Value of Keeping a Record

Using a journal will help guide you and may give you an idea as to the patterns of decision-making that are stressful and how to handle these stresses. While logical steps to decision-making combined with intuition are valuable, it’s your intuition that may give you the edge.

steps of problem solving decision making process

What about the times you were wrong when you trusted your instincts? It can happen, and for this reason, intuition combined with a logical process is beneficial.

Copyright Rita Watson, MPH, 2024

C. Thanos, "The complementary effects of rationality and intuition on strategic decision quality," European Management Journal , Volume 41, Issue 3 , June 2023, Pages 366-374

Collings, Howie, Carson, “If It Feels Right, Do It”: Intuitive Decision Making in a Sample of High-Level Sport Coaches, Frontiers in Psychology, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4830814/

Rita Watson MPH

Rita Watson, MPH , is an associate fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College, a former columnist for The Providence Journal, and the author of Italian Kisses: Rose-Colored Words and Love from the Old Country .

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COMMENTS

  1. 7 important steps in the decision making process

    The decision making process is a method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and making a final choice. ... The 7 steps of the decision making process Step 1: Identify the decision that needs to be made ... Effective decision-making involves creative problem solving and thinking out of the box, so don't limit you or your teams to ...

  2. Decision-Making Process: Steps, Tips, and Strategies

    Here's a closer look at each of the seven steps of the decision-making process, and how to approach each one. Step 1: Identify the decision. Most of us are eager to tie on our superhero capes and jump into problem-solving mode — especially if our team is depending on a solution.

  3. Master the 7-Step Problem-Solving Process for Better Decision-Making

    Step 1: Define the Problem. The first step in the problem-solving process is to define the problem. This step is crucial because finding a solution won't be easy if the problem is not clearly defined. The problem must be defined in a specific, measurable, and achievable way. One way to define the problem is to ask the right questions.

  4. The 7 steps of Effective Problem Solving and Decision Making

    Here we see the two skills of problem solving and decision making coming together. The two skills are vital to managing business risks as well as solving the problem. 6. Monitor and measure the plan. Having evolved through the five steps to this stage, you mustn't take your eye off the ball as it were.

  5. 8 Steps in the Decision-Making Process

    Steps in the Decision-Making Process. 1. Frame the Decision. Pinpointing the issue is the first step to initiating the decision-making process. Ensure the problem is carefully analyzed, clearly defined, and everyone involved in the outcome agrees on what needs to be solved. This process will give your team peace of mind that each key decision ...

  6. The Problem-Solving Process

    The Problem-Solving Process. Problem-solving is an important part of planning and decision-making. The process has much in common with the decision-making process, and in the case of complex decisions, can form part of the process itself. We face and solve problems every day, in a variety of guises and of differing complexity.

  7. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

    1. Define the problem. Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes.. The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps.

  8. Effective Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

    There are 4 modules in this course. Problem-solving and effective decision-making are essential skills in today's fast-paced and ever-changing workplace. Both require a systematic yet creative approach to address today's business concerns. This course will teach an overarching process of how to identify problems to generate potential ...

  9. How to master the seven-step problem-solving process

    Iterative problem solving is a critical part of this. Sometimes, people think work planning sounds dull, but it isn't. It's how we know what's expected of us and when we need to deliver it and how we're progressing toward the answer. It's also the place where we can deal with biases. Bias is a feature of every human decision-making ...

  10. Decision-making process

    The decision-making process' first few steps involve outlining, recognizing, defining, and establishing the criteria and constraints of the question, then proceeding with evidence and making a decision. ... Problem Solving: while problem solving and decision making are related, they are not the same. Problem solving is an analytical process ...

  11. 7 Useful Steps in the Decision-Making Process (With Templates)

    The decision-making process is a step-by-step procedure designed to create solutions to problems based on compiling information, examining the various options, and choosing how to proceed. From identifying the problem to reviewing all the options and implementing a plan of action, the seven-step decision-making process is well-suited for ...

  12. The Problem-Solving Process

    Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing, and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue. The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off learning everything ...

  13. What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)

    The problem-solving process typically includes the following steps: Identify the issue: Recognize the problem that needs to be solved. Analyze the situation: Examine the issue in depth, gather all relevant information, and consider any limitations or constraints that may be present. Generate potential solutions: Brainstorm a list of possible ...

  14. PDF Step Problem Solving Process

    Problem Solving Tools '. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone. Key Points • The Six Step Problem Solving Model provides a shared, collaborative, and systematic approach to problem solving. • Each step must be completed before moving on to the next step. However, the steps are repeatable.

  15. Decision-making and Problem-solving

    A 5-Step Problem-Solving Strategy. Specify the problem - a first step to solving a problem is to identify it as specifically as possible. It involves evaluating the present state and determining how it differs from the goal state. Analyze the problem - analyzing the problem involves learning as much as you can about it.

  16. Problem-Solving Strategies and Obstacles

    Several mental processes are at work during problem-solving. Among them are: Perceptually recognizing the problem. Representing the problem in memory. Considering relevant information that applies to the problem. Identifying different aspects of the problem. Labeling and describing the problem.

  17. The McKinsey guide to problem solving

    The McKinsey guide to problem solving. Become a better problem solver with insights and advice from leaders around the world on topics including developing a problem-solving mindset, solving problems in uncertain times, problem solving with AI, and much more.

  18. Decision-Making and Problem-Solving: What's the Difference?

    Decision-making is the process of choosing a solution based on your judgment, situation, facts, knowledge or a combination of available data. The goal is to avoid potential difficulties. Identifying opportunity is an important part of the decision-making process. Making decisions is often a part of problem-solving.

  19. How to Make Great Decisions, Quickly

    The right people with the relevant expertise need to clearly articulate their views to help you broaden your perspective and make the best choice. Great decisions are made as close as possible to ...

  20. Team Dynamics: Problem-Solving and Decision Making

    Different stages of team development call for different problem solving methods; Problem solving requires the use of a systematic process; The appropriate decision making method is determined by the amount of time available for the decision and the impact of the decision; Effective decision making requires the use of smart techniques

  21. 14.3 Problem Solving and Decision Making in Groups

    Step 2: Analyze the Problem. During this step a group should analyze the problem and the group's relationship to the problem. Whereas the first step involved exploring the "what" related to the problem, this step focuses on the "why.". At this stage, group members can discuss the potential causes of the difficulty.

  22. Decision making

    decision strategy. (Show more) decision making, process and logic through which individuals arrive at a decision. Different models of decision making lead to dramatically different analyses and predictions. Decision-making theories range from objective rational decision making, which assumes that individuals will make the same decisions given ...

  23. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making in Groups: Group Problem-Solving

    Secondary tensions and substantive conflict, two concepts discussed earlier, emerge during this step of problem solving, and group members will need to employ effective critical thinking and listening skills. Decision making is part of the larger process of problem solving and it plays a prominent role in this step.

  24. What is Decision Making? 7 Important Steps of Decision Making Process

    In this article, we will discuss what decision-making is, what are the 7 steps of a decision-making process, and more. Table of Content. What is Decision Making? ... Problem-solving: Decision-making helps individuals or organizations to identify all the possible solutions and decide the best course of action. It comprises evaluating the current ...

  25. Decision Strategies: 4 Steps to Success

    4. Make a decision and follow through. Once you have made your decision known, follow through instead of second-guessing yourself or asking your friends for approval or their opinions.

  26. Strategic Decision-Making

    The process of strategic decision-making involves the following steps: Assess The Opportunity Or Challenge - The first step involves identifying and evaluating strategic issues. Businesses need to evaluate the issues to develop an understanding of the problem's impact, nature, and influence on the organization.