The formal decision-making process

Definition: What is a decision-making process?

Decisions are made in companies. The decision-making process is the formal path to decision-making. This path consists of the preparation of the decision and the decision itself. Several influencers and several decision-makers can be involved in the decision-making process. Depending on the decision-making culture and the importance of a decision, a decision-making process can have different levels of complexity.

The phases of the decision-making process

The formal decision-making process influences the quality of decisions. Break down the decision-making process for important and far-reaching decisions into phases. The following phases are recommended:

  • Definition and delimitation of the question to be decided on
  • Obtaining information
  • Search for solution fields and alternatives
  • Evaluation of alternatives
  • Decision
  • Communication of the decision

Definition and delimitation of the question to be decided on

In the first phase (problem definition), sharply elaborate and delimit the concrete issue to be decided. In this first phase, a goal should be formulated that is to be achieved by the decision. It is advisable to also include in this phase the framework conditions under which the decision is to be made. In this way, decisions can be better understood later.

Information gathering

In the second phase (decision preparation), identify all relevant influencers and involve them in the preparation of the decision. Collect relevant information together and structure and condense it. For balanced decisions, it is important to examine the issue from as many relevant perspectives as possible and to include as many interests and sensitivities as possible.

Search for solution fields and alternatives

Only now, in the third phase, should you move on to decision-making, in which you work out arguments and positions and weigh up all perspectives in discourse against each other against the background of the given framework conditions. As a result of this phase, possible solution areas should be worked out, from which alternative solutions and concrete decision options are derived. The use of creativity techniques helps in this phase.

Evaluation of alternatives

If decision options are available, they are now evaluated by assessing how well the objectives can be achieved by the individual decision options. In addition, the evaluation should include side effects that the decision options are likely to trigger. Formal comparison and decision-making procedures based on assessment criteria, ratings and weightings can help. In addition to numerical facts, soft factors should also be included in a rational assessment.

Decision, decision-making

Finally, in the fifth phase, you can move on to decision-making. Rate assertive decisions that are supported by a large majority of stakeholders higher than decisions that are objectively better but not assertive. Only if you can “take along” all stakeholders will you achieve implementation success. Demand a commitment from all stakeholders to carry the decision taken and to support the implementation.

Exercise your decision-making power. Decide with determination, but carefully, i.e. only after you (in the team) have “decided”. Take the necessary time to prepare and make decisions.

Decide to achieve effects, not to show good intentions. For this, a understanding of the interplay of forces is as indispensable as knowledge of the physiological aspects in the decision-making process.

One more thing is important: decide in such a way that you gain more options from the decision than you had before the decision. This is not in line with our Western culture, where we make decisions by choosing one thing over another. Try to avoid such narrowing decisions and look for “both/and” solutions if possible.

Prerequisite: Do you have the decision-making power you need to do your job well? Or do you not have the decision-making power you need and are used more as an accessory to decision-making and as a scapegoat when things go wrong? Address that you envision your role differently.

Communicate the decision

Communicate decisions and resolutions with their objectives and framework to all those who are to participate in the implementation of the decision. Clear and complete communication is important for the acceptance and implementation success of decisions.

How your company benefits from good and clear decision-making processes

Successful companies are characterised by the fact that essential decisions are made in the first place and that the path to decisions follows a defined, comprehensible process.

Good and clear decisions are essential for companies to pursue a clear strategic and operational line, to concentrate the available resources on the important goals and to sharpen their own profile. A defined decision-making process ensures that all essential, relevant information is taken into account when decisions are made, that various decision options are illuminated, that an appropriate rational evaluation of the options takes place and that decisions are made holistically and are objectively comprehensible. Such decisions experience a high level of acceptance and a high probability of implementation.


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