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Lessons in Leadership

Choosing a Decision-Making Strategy

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Decision-making involves more than processing information. It is also an interpersonal process. You must decide how to involve others in making the decision – or whether to include them at all. Your decision-making strategy should be influenced by these four variables:

  • Availability of information

  • Clear superiority of one choice

  • Need to have others accept the decision

  • Amount of time available for decision-making

Five possible approaches to decision-making are listed below, with indicators for choosing each one.

Option 1: Make the decision by yourself.

Use this strategy when . . .
You have all the information you need.
You already know which decision is likely to be best.
Acceptance by others is not important.
A decision must be made quickly.

Option 2: Get information from others, then decide yourself.

Use this strategy when . . .
You lack critical information that others have.
With this information, you will be able to tell which decision is best.
Acceptance by others is not important.
A decision must be made quickly.

Option 3: Before deciding, consult with others one-on-one to get their views.

Use this strategy when . . .
The best decision is not clear. Others may have conflicting views or different priorities.
Hearing different perspectives will help you make a better decision.
Including others in the process will increase acceptance of the decision.
A group discussion would not be helpful. You have time for consultation.

Option 4: Before deciding, have a group discussion to explore options.

Use this strategy when . . .
The best decision is not clear. Others may have conflicting views or different priorities.
You need to hear other perspectives to make a good decision.
Having a group discussion will allow more possibilities to be explored.
Hearing the views of others will help group members understand and accept the decision.
Group discussion is logistically possible. You have time for group participation.

Option 5: Ask the group to reach a consensus independently.

Use this strategy when . . .
The best decision is not clear.
You have no strong preferences.
Group members share your priorities and can agree on common goals.
Group members have all relevant information.
The group has a big stake in the outcome.
Acceptance by the group is important.
The group has a history of working well together.
Group discussion is logistically possible.
You have time for consensus-building.

Making good decisions depends not only on locating all necessary information, but also on involving the right people in the right way. If you tend to overuse one or two of the above strategies, look for appropriate occasions to try a different approach.

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