A Process for Making Wise Decisions

Posted by Jack Warren, Chase Oaks Chief of Staff, on Jul 21, 2022

A Process for Making Wise Decisions

I often say, “Leaders are placed in their role because of their judgment.” Charisma, tenure, and unique skills help, but good judgment and the ability to make wise decisions are what separates good leaders from great leaders.

Some decisions—like choosing an outfit or a restaurant—are fairly simple and usually take just a few minutes. Others are more complex and can take months, like choosing a school or purchasing a home. Generally speaking, the bigger the consequences, the harder it is to make a decision. To add to the complexity, emotions can pull us in all sorts of directions and cloud our judgment. All of us can benefit from a proven process for making great decisions.

What kind of process am I suggesting? You might be expecting me to tell you to pray, seek counsel, and wait for peace, but let’s assume you are already going to pray and seek wise counsel. Are there other practical things you can do to help you make a great decision? Yes, there are!

I want to propose a values-based process. Whether you are deciding who to date, where to go to school, what to purchase, what job to accept, who to hire, or which strategy to implement, this process will help.

The essence of the process is this: use values to make the decision. While it is tempting to listen to your emotions or a super-convincing person, it is far better to select a number of key values and then run all of your options through those values.

You can do this informally, in your head, or you can set up a very thorough process. If you are intrigued, read on as I share a method for using weighted values-based analysis in decision-making.

1. Decide on who the primary decision maker will be, who will have veto power, and who needs to provide input.

For some decisions, you may play all three roles—but in leadership decisions, we usually need to identify different people for each role. If the decision falls under your area of responsibility, you will likely be the decision maker. Your boss/manager will have veto authority, and your team would likely have input. Note: there is great wisdom in having other voices weigh in on a decision, but it will be exhausting if you give every person in your company an input role.

2. Identify the top four or five values that you will use to guide the decision.

Determine the values you will use with the help of those you have listed as having input.

3. Weigh these values by giving each one a value between 1-10, with ten as the highest/most important value, and decrease the points for each values from there.

You will want to rank these with the help of those you have listed as having input in this decision. Assigning these weights is often more difficult than making the final decision! Rank the highest value with a ten and then decrease the other values from there. You’ll use this list as a values “scorecard” for the next step.

4. Run each option for your decision through the scorecard.

Assign each option a score on a scale of 1-10. Next, multiply each score times the weight of each value and add up the totals for each option.

5. Review the scores with your input group.

Make the decision and run it by the veto person to finalize it.

Now you are ready to inform all who need to know about the decision.

Let’s illustrate these steps with a fairly common decision: how to decide which job offer to accept.

1. Decide on decision-making roles.

Let’s assume you are the primary decision-maker and have veto power. Decide who will give input about which job option is best. This would include your spouse (if married), as he/she likely knows you best and will be impacted by your decision. But it can also include your closest friends, and any past/present mentors.

2. With your input group, create a list of four to five values.

3. Prioritize and weigh the values on a scale from 1-10.

For example, some values and their associated weights might be

  • Belief in the organization: 10
  • Growth and advancement opportunities: 9
  • Fit for the role: 9
  • Salary and benefits: 8
  • Location: 8

Note: a temporary job will likely have a different set of values than a longer-term, career type of job.

4. Run your options through your scoring system.

Let’s do this with a sample option "A." Suppose one option is to move from a management role in sales to a new start-up that shows a lot of promise in software development. You will hire a team of sales people while also being in charge of branding and marketing the new product.

Here is how you might score this opportunity:

  • Belief in the organization: score of 7 multiplied by the value weight of 10 = 70
  • Growth and advancement: score of 10 multiplied by the value weight of 9 = 90
  • Fit for the role: score of 10 multiplied by the value weight of 9 = 90
  • Salary and benefits: score of 7 multiplied by the value weight of 8 = 56
  • Location: score of 7 multiplied by the value weight of 8 = 56

The total score for option "A" is 362.

Now, let’s suppose another option "B" is very similar, but it is with an established company with a 15-year track record. You believe in their mission, so you score it a 10. The second option’s “belief in the organization” weighted score would increase by 30 points, resulting in a total score of 392 for option "B."

Even if the salary were a little less and you had scored it at six, the total weighted score for option "B" would decrease by only eight points to 384, which is higher than the total for option "A." You would then present option "B" to the veto person, and if it isn't vetoed, present it to all who need to know about the decision.

The overall concept is this: if you can weigh your values and apply those to your options, you will make a great decision that resonates with your values and gives you more peace and confidence in the decision. The process may seem a bit clunky or heavy on numbers, but it is proven to take the emotion out of the commotion of decision making. Even if you don’t geek out like me on this scoring system, find a way to make decisions based on your core values, and you will be wiser for it.

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