You’re a decision-maker every single day.
From the moment you wake up, you start making decisions. You decide what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, and whether to spend 15 minutes on a workout, meditation, or extra sleep. These decisions, large and small, continue all day long.
Some decisions are simple. You make them with barely a thought.
Other decisions should be more intentional.
The average adult makes 35,000 conscious decisions a day. For those in management positions, the number might be even higher.
With so many choices to make, managers at any level might start to struggle with decision fatigue.
If you’re a manager or want to be one, the decision-making process in management positions demands more attention to detail. And to combat decision fatigue, you need to know what steps to take to make the best decisions possible.
Why is it so hard to make a decision?
If you’re a manager who sometimes dreads making decisions, it’s understandable. When you lead the decision-making process, there’s a lot at stake. Your team members count on you to be a good leader. And sometimes you may not have enough time to make a thoughtful decision.
Other times, the information available doesn’t offer a straightforward course of action. The fear of making the wrong decision can loom over your head and fill you with self-doubt. Sometimes, you might struggle with decision fatigue and feel exhausted by even the smallest decision.
Being a decision-maker presents endless opportunities for success and failure. Making a bad decision is always a possibility. The key is making the best possible decisions with the information you have.
Trust your training and knowledge and keep improving your decision-making processes.
What are the main steps to take when making a decision as a manager?
The entire process of how and when to decide something is a lot. But you’ll feel better prepared if you’ve cultivated a rational business decision-making process. You’ll likely develop your own process over time, but it helps to build on a basic framework.
Here are seven steps of the decision-making process worth following to make better managerial decisions:
1. Identify the decision that you have to make
You can’t solve a problem without knowing what it is, so start by familiarizing yourself with the issue so you know precisely what you’re deciding on. If someone has presented you with the issue, ask open-ended questions to get detailed answers.
If there are multiple decisions involved in solving a problem, break them down into single steps and go through this process for each, eliminating decisions if one step solves one of them.
2. Review relevant information
Start brainstorming after you’ve defined the decision. To make an informed decision, you must take stock of all available information.
Reviewing a lot of information can grow chaotic. Try to stay organized by using strategies like flowcharts or colored sticky notes. You don’t want to lose an essential document in a stack of hundreds.
Fresh perspectives are great when mulling through information, so get other team members involved in compiling relevant information. Do the same when considering solutions to your problem.
3. Think about possible alternatives
How many possible solutions are there to this decision? Since you’ve reviewed your information carefully, you’ve probably considered several options. There could be many alternatives, but this isn’t the stage where you figure out the best choice. Instead, focus on listing possibilities by asking questions and listening to feedback.
4. Weigh your evidence
Now that you have your possible solutions, it’s time to weigh all the pros and cons. Think about your competitors and the outcomes they’ve had with such decisions. Review the possible wins and losses that you could experience for each possible alternative.
You can also consider how your decision would impact your group members and stakeholders. What kind of change will they have to adapt to? Don’t rush to this stage. You want to make a decision that you feel comfortable with and confident in.
5. Choose the solution
You’ve arrived at the step where you make your final decision. Review your information and alternatives and weigh your evidence. Then, make your decision. Trust yourself: you’re prepared to make this call.
6. Take action
The final step is executing your decision. Create a plan that sets you and your business up to succeed. Strategic planning could take a while, but you’ll only reap the benefits of a successful decision, such as satisfied team members and mental clarity if you execute your action plan properly.
7. Reflect on your decision
Some people consider this a bonus step, but if you want to become a better decision-maker, it’s critical. Reflecting on your step-by-step process and the result of your decision is important to internalize your work and set yourself up for continued success.
You might even realize that you made good decisions unconsciously — laying them out clearly in front of you will ensure that you continue to repeat good behavior down the road.
The goal when reflecting isn’t to convince yourself you made all the right choices. It’s to be honest about what worked and what didn’t so you can learn from each decision.
Did you solve the problem you first identified? How good were you at gathering information? Are your goals being met? Did you take advantage of all the resources at your disposal? Tapping into the knowledge of co-workers and colleagues helps you identify what your options are. If you forgot to include someone in that process, you might’ve missed an opportunity.
Take notes when creating your post-mortem, jotting down what you learned from the process and whether you’d make any changes. This way, you’ll be prepared when decisions get harder.
The decision-making process can be challenging in the project management world. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been making managerial decisions for one, five, or 15 years: hiccups happen to everyone.
Here are four common challenges you may encounter in the decision-making process:
1. Having too much information
With all of the information you’ve gathered, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Having too little knowledge can be overwhelming, too, and let your biases slip in. With practice, prioritizing and picking the most crucial information to review will become easier.
Don’t hesitate if you need to do some more research to better guide your decisions. Research skills never go out of style, and you’ll know how to prioritize what you find.
Be realistic, though. As a manager, you rarely have all of the time or information you might like. Being 100% certain is not the goal. The goal is to give yourself the resources necessary to make an educated decision.
2. Being overconfident
Even though you’re doing your best to make informed decisions, you could always make the wrong decision. It’s part of life. But if you don’t acknowledge this possibility, it could make you more prone to mistakes or failure. Being confident is great, but overconfidence can lead to unnecessary errors.
Too much self-confidence can cause you to alienate others, have tunnel vision when making decisions, or take on too much responsibility.
3. Not identifying the problem correctly
The first step in your decision-making process is an important one. It sets the tone for the rest of your research and consultation. If you don’t identify what you’re trying to decide on, you can’t reach the best decision in the end.
Some decisions are complex and require a lot of time, so don’t rush.
4. Getting everyone on board
The bottom line is that sometimes you’re the decision-maker. As a manager, you have the final word, but hearing feedback and working collaboratively are crucial. Be clear with your team whether the decision will be collaborative or not to set transparent expectations.
Will you be taking a vote as a team? Or are you getting their input so you can make the final decision yourself? Be as transparent as possible about the criteria you’ll use to make the decision and what the process and timeline will be.
If the rest of your team members can’t agree on anything, it makes your decision more challenging and clear communication more important. Being a good manager means focusing on how your whole team operates. You might need to strengthen your team’s communication or problem-solving skills.
There will be both easy-going and challenging moments for every decision you make. Here are four tips to help you feel confident about the decisions you make:
- Take advantage of organizational tools
- Communicate clearly and regularly to everyone involved
- Find a routine that works for you and stick to it
- Don’t let your past mistakes make you hesitant about future decisions
Set a decision-making process today
There’s always room for improvement — especially in management positions. Leadership is a moving target, so consider working with a coach to develop your management skills. All of these skills contribute to making more confident, comfortable decisions.