We all know that running a business requires people to make decisions. The better the decision, the better the outcome. Therefore, it’s important that their decision-making skills are up to scratch. However, decision making isn’t always something we are taught how to do.

Of course, we come across a wide variety of decisions on a daily basis. Cornflakes or toast for breakfast? Get up now or press the snooze button for the next 30 minutes? The pink shirt or the blue one? However, these decisions are usually easy to make – they don’t require much thought, mainly because they are every day, and don’t have serious consequences. Few people had their day ruined because they opted for Crunchy Nut over jam on toast.

How then can we improve our decision-making abilities when it comes to the more important things in life, or in business?

The Seven Steps for Effective Decision Making

The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth suggests there are seven basic steps in the process of effective decision making:

#1 – Identify the decision

You know that a decision needs to be made, and clearly define what that decision looks like.

#2 – Gather relevant information

What information do you need to help you make your decision? Where is the best source of this information? How are you going to get hold of it? When do you need it by?

#3 – Identify alternatives

It’s important that you don’t go into any decision making process with blinkers on. You may start to get a feel for what the “right” or “best” decision might be, but make sure as you gather the information you are looking at all the alternatives at the same time. You just never know when a situation will change, and your second-best option becomes the best course.

#4 – Weigh up the evidence

After gathering all the information you need, and exhausting all the possible alternatives, weigh up every option available to you. Imagine what it would be like to have made that particular decision. What outcomes do you like? What do you want to avoid? Is there any way of combining options to give you the best of both worlds?

#5 – Make your choice

Once you have looked at all your options and weighed them up you need to make an actual decision. We’ve talked previously about the importance of making, and then owning a decision, rather than simply procrastinating and doing nothing.

#6 – Take action

Once the decision has been mad start the process of implementing that decision.

#7 – Review

Once a decision has been made make sure you take the time to review it and look at the consequences of your choice. This might happen days, weeks, months or even years later – but it is important to ascertain whether it was the right choice. Perhaps it was the right choice at the time, but now you have new information, and the choice is no longer a valid one. The important thing here is to remember that you are allowed to change your mind if the situation dictates that would be the right course of action.