What Are the Eight Steps to Decision Making?

by Beth Winston; Updated September 26, 2017
Make a tough decision easier by approaching it in an analytical way.

If you find it hard to make important decisions and move forward, either in your professional or personal life, you might benefit from a more analytical look at decision-making itself. There are a variety of decision-making models out there. Most of them break decision-making into eight similar steps.

Identify the Problem or Situation

Whenever you make a decision you are responding to some situation that needs your attention. So before you begin with your decision, analyze exactly what it is that’s prompting your actions and make sure you’re seeing the whole picture. Try to state the problem as objectively as possible.

Consider the Nature of the Problem

In what way is the situation you are addressing problematic? In what way is it causing you difficulties? Why do you need a solution? These are the next questions you must answer as you go through your 8 steps. In essence you’re identifying your problem criteria.

Research the Problem

Once you’ve understood the issue, you may find you need more information in order to begin to address it. Unless you have all the facts at your fingertips, it will be difficult to make an informed decision in your own best interests.

Develop Solutions

Most problems have more than one solution. Usually you will find there are several different ways you could address the situation, and each might have different outcomes and consequences. Make a list of each of these approaches.

List Pros & Cons

For each of your possible solutions, list out the pros and cons of the approach. Try to do this while thinking through the long-term consequences, and being as objective as possible.

Select the Best Approach

Examine each of your possible solutions in turn, with its list of pros and cons, and decide which will be the most effective and beneficial. Try to be as analytical as possible in this stage and try not to let your emotions about the situation cloud your judgment. Keep your long-term goals in mind.

Execute Your Choice

Now that you’ve identified and chosen your solution from all the possible options, it’s time to put it into action. You can be decisive in taking action precisely because you know you’ve put in the work in the previous steps to make the best decision possible.

Evaluate and Communicate

Was your decision successful? It’s important to reflect on it for yourself and to seek the opinion of others, once you’ve followed through on your decision. This will give you important information for carrying out other key decisions in your life that you will make in the future. Most decisions affect others in your life or at your workplace. Bring them into the process and clearly communicate your decision and the actions you have effected to bring it about.

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