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Elements of management decision making

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

Effective decision-making is an important skill that underpins all aspects of a manager’s role. For this assessment criteria, you will be required to critically evaluate the meaning and constituents of effective decision making, how they relate to accountability and the impacts that decisions may have on others as well as the potential effects of not making a decision in a timely manner. You should include examples from your own practice.

The meaning of effective decision-making

Drucker (The Effective Decision, 1967) stated that “Effective decisions result from a systematic process, with clearly defined elements, that is handled in a distinct sequence of steps“. He goes on to argue that effective decision-making does not end with the decision – it must then be communicated to others and put into action. “Unless a decision has degenerated into work, it is not a decision; it is at best a good intention.”. The effects of the decision must also be monitored.

The constituents of an effective management decision

Drucker describes a sequence of steps for an effective decision-making process. They are:

  1. Classification – Is the problem generic or unique? Generic problems can be guided by rules or policies – for example, if a decision needs to be made about whether an employee can be granted annual leave, the relevant policy would be referred to. However, if the problem is unique, a unique solution will be required that may even require policies to be rewritten – for example, the coronavirus pandemic was a unique problem that radically changed working practices for everyone.
  2. Definition – What is the essence of the problem? This should be described accurately so that thought and analysis are not diverted away from the original purpose.
  3. Specifications – What are the boundary conditions? Any decision made must satisfy the conditions set out in this step.
  4. Decision – After an analysis of the options, a decision should be made that is the best for all stakeholders.
  5. Action – The decision must be communicated to the people that will be tasked with carrying it out and any objections handled sensitively – being transparent about how a decision was made or involving others in the decision-making can expedite this process.
  6. Feedback – Monitoring and reporting must be carried out to ensure that decisions achieve their anticipated results.

Another model of decision-making is ‘DECIDE: A Decision-Making Model for More Effective Decision Making by Health Care Managers (Guo, 2008). Compared to Drucker’s process, Guo presents a more modern approach that is tailored to the health and social care sector.

  1. Define the problem – What is the problem? Does a decision actually need to be made?
  2. Establish the criteria – What should be achieved? What should be preserved? What should be avoided?
  3. Consider all the alternatives – What are the possible choices? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each alternative?
  4. Identify the best alternative – Alternative should satisfy all criteria. In addition, managers may wish to rank each alternative against each criterion and select the option that has the highest ‘score’. Selection can be based on factual data, professional judgment and experience.
  5. Develop and implement a plan of action – How will the decision be implemented? What is needed?
  6. Evaluate and monitor the solution – Obtain feedback to establish if implementation produced the desired results.

The effects of not making timely decisions in management

Sometimes a decision does not need to be made because the problem will resolve itself over time, however, managers must be careful that they do not use this way of thinking to avoid making decisions or to procrastinate about making a choice.

If a decision is not made in a timely fashion, it could negatively affect employees, service users or your organisation. For example, if a service user has made a complaint and you do not respond to it swiftly (in line with timescales documented in your complaints policy), they will feel that they are not being taken seriously and could escalate the complaint to external agencies. You would also not be fulfilling your role correctly or adhering to the Care Quality Commission’s regulations.

Not making timely decisions can also impact your leadership because employees will see you as someone that can not be relied upon and may lose confidence in you.

In addition, by not taking control of a decision yourself, you run the risk of the decision being taken away from you – for example, if an employee asks you to sign off on their annual leave but you procrastinate because you are worried that you will have difficulty filling their shifts, they would be justified in taking their request to higher management.

The impact that making a management decision has on others

As well as considering the effects of not making a management decision, you must also consider the impact that any decision you make will have on others.

For example, if you decide that care staff must carry out a drug stock check every day (where previously they had been performed once per week) team members may not initially be happy that they now have extra work to do. You will need to be transparent about why you came to the decision and be able to communicate it to your staff effectively. It may be that weekly drug stock checks resulted in errors and medication that was unaccounted for, so by performing them daily you will be able to identify exactly where the error lies. This would be your justification for the decision.

Involving team members in the decision-making process is also a good way of ensuring compliance – individuals will be more likely to agree to decisions if they feel they have participated in the process or if their views have been taken into account.

The relationship between decision-making and accountability

Accountability means taking responsibility for making decisions as well as their outcomes. There will be times when you make decisions that do not achieve the results that you anticipated. In such cases, you should be able to justify your decision by explaining your decision-making process and the reasons for making that particular choice.