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There are many approaches to making decisions, from pro and con lists to sticking a pin in a map. But one of the most accepted, especially for business decisions, is the five-step process, which usually involves identifying the decision to be made, examining options, gathering information, making the decision and implementing the decision. You should be prepared to shift from the decision you're leaning toward if at any point you discover shifting is warranted.
Name the Decision
The first step in the decision process is to identify exactly what decision is being made. If it's a choice between two things, such as choosing between two jobs that are being offered, it's fairly simple to name the decision. But if it's a question of whether to start a business and what exactly the business should do, or how to finance expansion, that's trickier. Write down what you think the decision is that you're making, then hone your description of the decision until it expresses exactly what you're trying to decide. This should help you define the elements of the next step, evaluating options.
Some people choose to use Step 2 to gather information rather than brainstorming about options. But if you begin by brainstorming about the various options, or choices you could make, it helps you see where the gaps in your knowledge are. Write down all possible options regarding the decision and their outcomes as you currently perceive them. Include the option of making no change at all and what impact that will have. Make notes to yourself about assumptions you're making and information you lack that you need to support with facts to ensure your decision is solid.
Use the Internet, the library and other resources to collect information you lack about the decision. If you are thinking of starting a business, for example, first do research on how "mature" the market is. A mature market means that all or most of the people who need your product probably already have it. Check out your competition and the opportunities for growth. Do due diligence on the costs of starting and maintaining the business. Make sure any numbers you collect are pertinent to your market. Collect all the information you can imagine you might need before making the decision.
Make the Decision
Plug the information you gathered into the evaluation of options you did in Step 2, and see how each option looks with the new information. Don't forget to include intangibles such as how each option makes you feel. If you're choosing an employee, for example, and one person is more qualified but seems abrasive or ill fitting for your company, that's a valid factor to include in making the decision. You need to feel good about the decision you make for it to be successful. If you're working with a team, the team as a whole needs to support the decision.
Use the information you gathered and the arguments made while forming the decision to create a plan of implementation. Decide what steps need to be taken, in what order, to give the change a solid foundation. If you're working with a team, decide who is responsible for what pieces of the new operation and how team members will implement their roles.
Jane Doyle has been writing for newspapers and magazines for more than 30 years. She served as associate editor for a business/lifestyle publication and has written articles for magazines ranging from "Bank Director" to "Natural Home." Doyle holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Kansas.