What Is the Process of Decision Making?

Marlene Garcia

The process of decision making generally analyzes a problem in stages until a viable solution develops. It involves choosing the best alternative after defining the issue and identifying the desirable outcome. The process of decision making includes choosing an action to reach a goal after weighing attributes of each alternative. Decisions might be made by a group or one person who compares options. The final step is acting on the information learned during the process of decision making.

Group decision making may be subject to a desire for social conformity and other bias.
Group decision making may be subject to a desire for social conformity and other bias.

Deciding whether a problem exists is typically the first step in the process of decision making. Some professionals use a problem statement that condenses the issue into a one-sentence format. If a group is involved in the process, all participants should agree on the problem statement and that it defines the issue that needs a solution. This step eliminates assumptions and might summarize a complex problem into a manageable task.

Next, minimum standards might be set to accomplish the ultimate goal. A discussion of feasible actions acceptable to the process of decision making might occur at this stage. For example, if cost versus benefit represents an important element in the final decision, expense parameters might be set.

Setting goals within the defined parameters gives decision makers a clear vision of the outcome. This might include analyzing all the information available that hinders or helps those goals become reality. Goals are typically based on preferences and values of those involved in the process of decision making.

At this point, alternative solutions might be analyzed, including the requirements of each option. Any option that does not meet the defined goal is commonly scrapped at this point, with each alternative evaluated on its own merits. This step uses an analytic method to weed out options that prove unworkable.

The remaining alternatives might be ranked by attributes that illustrate how effective they might be in achieving the desired solution. Sometimes these attributes are divided into groups, especially for complex issues that contain more than one objective. The pros and cons of these groups can be further measured before selecting the most appropriate option, using objective and subjective criteria.

Acting upon the chosen alternative is the final step in the process of decision making. This includes allocating the resources needed to apply the solution to the problem. Many variations exist in the process of decision making, but the basic stages generally apply to any problem.

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