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Basics of Decision Making

A decision is a resolution or conclusion reached after consideration. Decision making is an act of making a choice. It involves identifying and choosing options according to the decision maker’s preferences and values. Making a decision, therefore, implies that there are various alternative options to consider. The decision maker has to identify these options and choose the one that best fits his or her goals, values or desires. (Robert (1980)).

According to Baker et al. (2001), the process of decision making involves first defining the problem. As a minimum, root causes should be identified. Requirements are then identified and stated in exact quantitative form. Goals are established so as to assist in narrowing down of alternatives. The infeasible alternatives are done away with, and the possible solutions obtained for further consideration. The alternatives should then be evaluated against criteria so as to obtain the best possible solution. Then the best alternative selected has to be validated against the goals and requirements of the problem.

There are several kinds of decisions; decisions whether, decisions which, contingent decisions and contingent alternatives. Decisions ‘whether’ are the yes or no choices made before moving to selection of alternatives. These decisions are made by comparing reasons for opting an alternative. For example, the decision if one should buy a TV. It is essential to note having made a decision ‘whether’. Often it is assumed that a decision-making process usually starts with the recognition of alternatives. Decisions ‘which’ involve selecting alternatives from a set of possibilities depending on how each option measures up to a set of predefined measures of effectiveness. Decisions that have been made but are put on hold until something happens, or some condition is met are called contingent decisions. For example, when one has decided to buy a car if he or she can get it for the right price. Often most people have already made contingent decisions but are just waiting for certain opportunities to arise or for some necessary condition to be met before they can act on the decisions. Contingent alternatives are options which have been put on hold before taking an action, of which, one will be taken when the necessary condition is met (which is usually an event or more information). (Robert Harris (1980) Introduction to Decision Making).

There are various levels of decision making; managerial, personal and governmental. Personal decisions are a synthesis of personal characteristics and beliefs. Often, these decisions are influenced by factors such as one’s intuition, emotional state, background and priorities. In management, decision-making is very important. For example, for a manager who is in charge of a team, most likely, the first initiative is to identify the problem so as to understand the situation clearly. It involves asking questions like why, how, what, where or to who is the problem happening? The causes and implications of the problem are looked into. The alternatives raised should undergo screening for advantages, disadvantages, future expectations and impact. Then, the best alternative is chosen. Decisions are also vital in a government. In a democratic government, decisions are made the elected representatives. Also, in an autocratic government, a single person makes the decisions. (Forman, E. and Selly, M.A. (2001))

Any decision made affects an individual, organization, institution, government or country immediately or in the future. Unmade decisions end up in other people making the decision on one’s behalf or decisions by default. Decision making is a key skill. It is, therefore, important to learn to make very effective decisions. Decisions have far-reaching consequences. (Wang Y., Guenther R., the Cognitive Process of Decision Making).


Baker, D., Bridges, D., Hunter, R., Johnson, G., Krupa, J., Murphy, J. and Sorenson, K. (2002) Guidebook to Decision Making Methods. .

Forman, E. and Selly, M.A. (2001) Decision by Objectives, World Scientific.

Robert Harris (1980) Introduction to Decision Making.

Wang Y., Guenther R., the Cognitive Process of Decision Making, International Journal of Cognitive Informatics and Natural Intelligence.


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