Decision-Making: Process and Tools
Step Nine - “Assess the Effectiveness of the Decision and Process” and
Step Ten - “Identify and Avoid Common Mistakes”

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

Step Nine

  1. Assess the Effectiveness of the Decision--Observe the impact of the decision. Obtain feedback on its effectiveness. Is it accomplishing the objectives it was designed to achieve? If not, why not? Are certain modifications or changes called for? Of course, some decisions are irrevocable. They cannot be revised or called back. The invasion by the Allied forces of Europe in World War II involved such a decision. Once General Eisenhower made the decision to proceed, it was not reversible. However, most of the decisions we make can be modified.

    If the results prove that the decision was a bad one, that we have made a mistake, it is best as quickly as possible to admit it, stop the process, and start over. Mere resistance should not trigger such action, however, because generally not everyone is going to affirm the decision. Feedback that reveals success should result in continued effort to completion and celebration of the benefits of the decision.

  2. Analyze the Process and Determine What Can Be Learned From It--The wise decision maker will always debrief the decision, including its implementation. Such analysis will usually reveal ways in which the process followed may be improved or validated. Without candid evaluation, a person is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

    Don't be discouraged if the decision proves to be a faulty one. In baseball a batter that gets a hit one-third of the times at bat is considered excellent; two-thirds of the time at bat, he fails. In making literally thousands of decisions in short periods of time, we are not going to do it right all of the time--perhaps not even most of the time. But we must continue to make decisions; to decide to not decide is to decide to let someone else make the decision! True in life and leadership!

  3. Sometimes the process is excellent, but circumstances beyond the control of the decision maker cause the consequences of the decision to be bad, not good. For example, a person may follow all of the decision steps in making an investment, but it results in a loss because the entire economy goes into recession--a condition over which the investor had no control. On the other hand, a flawed process can sometimes result in a positive consequence. Sometimes a tip on a stock from a questionable source pays off! However, in most cases the better the process of decision-making, the better the content and consequences of the decision.

  4. Content and consequences of the decision:

    An old mountaineer from West Virginia was celebrated for his wisdom. “Uncle Zed” a young man asked him, “how did you get so wise?”
    “Weren’t hard,” said the old man. “I’ve got good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience--well, that comes from making bad judgments.” --Bethel, p. 165


Step Ten

Avoid the Common Mistakes in Decision-Making--Pitfalls in the process of decision-making are numerous. Avoiding them helps make good decisions; you can improve your performance. Review the list below; then evaluate your practice of these following common mistakes in decision-making. Use N=never; S=seldom; O=often. Where do you celebrate excellence; where do you need to improve?

    1. Acting too quickly. ________
    2. Acting too slowly. ________
    3. Being too autocratic in group decision-making. ________
    4. Failing to take time to clearly state the basics of the decision. _________
    5. Focusing only on short-term results; sacrificing long-term consequences. ________
    6. Allowing emotions to control the process. ________
    7. Excluding emotions from the process. ________
    8. Overlooking the biases and prejudices that shape our perception of “reality.” ________
    9. Relying too much on information from sources we know little about. ________
    10. Ignoring feelings, intuition, “gut” reactions. ________
    11. Seeing patterns where none exist; framing decisions on these patterns. ________
    12. Making decisions to satisfy a current crave for variety and change. ________
    13. Working on the wrong problem. ________
    14. Overlooking crucial consequences of the decision. ________
    15. Disregarding uncertainty and avoiding contingency planning. ________
    16. Not correctly assessing your risk tolerance. ________
    17. Being unaware of the psychological “traps”: relying on first thoughts, seeing what you want to see, being too sure of yourself, etc. ________
    18. Other: ____________________________________________________________

How did you make out? Totals: N_____; S_____; O_____.

The Hard Decisions: One Case

For example, most of us consider honesty to be a basic value. Thus a decision that involves dishonesty is wrong. Or is it?

Were those who hid Jews from the Nazis, who lied about their whereabouts in order to save lives, making the wrong decision? Or are there “layers” of values? Is saving lives a higher value than honesty? If so, is the decision to lie in order to save lives a right decision?

Other Cases from your knowledge or experience:

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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