Decision-Making: Process and Tools
“Step Two – Follow a Basic Decision Process”

by Wm. M. Pinson, Jr., Th.D. with Lloyd Elder, Th.D.
adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 10 – Decision-Making

1. Benefits of a Basic Process for Making
–A process for making decisions is better than a haphazard, hit-and-miss approach. Because most persons have not had the benefit of a careful study of decision-making, many lack such a process. Hopefully, out of this study you will develop your own systematic process. Experts in decision-making point out that a systematic approach helps you to:

  • Address the right decision problem
  • Clarify your real objectives
  • Develop a range of creative alternatives
  • Understand the consequences of your decision
  • Make appropriate tradeoffs among conflicting objectives
  • Deal sensibly with uncertainties
  • Take account of your risk-taking attitude
  • Plan ahead for decisions linked over time
    [Hammond, p. 217]

2. Criteria for the Basic Process–Regardless of the kind of decision to be made, certain steps are deemed important to arrive at a good decision. These steps may be taken subconsciously or very deliberately, informally or formally, but in any case each is important. The amount of time, thought, and energy given to a decision will vary; the basic steps should not.

And what are these steps? Authorities in decision-making differ as to which ones are absolutely essential and how to name or describe each step. Whatever process or steps a person may follow, an effective decision-making
process will fulfill these six criteria:

  • It focuses on what is important.
  • It is logical and consistent.
  • It acknowledges both subjective and objective factors and blends analytical with intuitive thinking.
  • It requires only as much information and analysis as is necessary to resolve a particular dilemma.
  • It encourages and guides the gathering of relevant information and informed opinion.
  • It is straightforward, reliable, easy to use, and flexible.
    [Hammond, p. 4]

3. To these the Christian servant leader will add:
(see also SL#36)

  • It begins with a faith commitment in God.
  • It utilizes the resources available to the follower of Jesus Christ.
  • It is consistent with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.
  • It seeks to advance the purposes of the kingdom of God.
    Some authorities on decision-making endeavor to reduce the process to a formula or easily memorized summary. This approach is represented by the following, labeled the PROACT approach:
    Risk Tolerance
    Linked Decisions
    [Hammond, p. 5]

4. Most agree that the following are important to the decision-making process, each of which is included in the above “formula”:

  • Recognize the need for a decision.
  • Determine if this decision really needs to be made.
  • Identify the persons who should make the decision–individual, if so, whom; group, if so, which–and the person or group to assign the decision-making responsibility.
  • Understand the nature of the decision and/or problem.
  • State the objectives or priorities involved in the decision.
  • Gain opinions about the options or alternatives.
  • Obtain facts and information related to the decision.
  • Identify the boundary conditions related to the decision.
  • State clearly the options or alternatives.
  • Evaluate the options or alternatives.
  • Make a tentative decision and assess it.
  • Make the final decision and announce or publicize it.
  • Implement the decision.
  • Assess the impact of the decision and monitor the results.
  • Analyze the process used in making the decision and see what can be learned in order to improve the decision-making process.

Certainly, this is an idealized/complex process. Not all, perhaps only a few, will follow it in detail. Some will leap past certain steps. Yet it does set forth important ingredients to any decision-making process. So, let’s combine and examine these briefly in the next eight steps as Steps 3 through 10 (SL#38, #39, #40, #41).

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© 2006; hosted and
copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership