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How to Make Great Decisions, Quickly

  • Martin G. Moore

goal setting problem solving decision making planning

It’s a skill that will set you apart.

As a new leader, learning to make good decisions without hesitation and procrastination is a capability that can set you apart from your peers. While others vacillate on tricky choices, your team could be hitting deadlines and producing the type of results that deliver true value. That’s something that will get you — and them — noticed. Here are a few of a great decision:

  • Great decisions are shaped by consideration of many different viewpoints. This doesn’t mean you should seek out everyone’s opinion. The right people with the relevant expertise need to clearly articulate their views to help you broaden your perspective and make the best choice.
  • Great decisions are made as close as possible to the action. Remember that the most powerful people at your company are rarely on the ground doing the hands-on work. Seek input and guidance from team members who are closest to the action.
  • Great decisions address the root cause, not just the symptoms. Although you may need to urgently address the symptoms, once this is done you should always develop a plan to fix the root cause, or else the problem is likely to repeat itself.
  • Great decisions balance short-term and long-term value. Finding the right balance between short-term and long-term risks and considerations is key to unlocking true value.
  • Great decisions are timely. If you consider all of the elements listed above, then it’s simply a matter of addressing each one with a heightened sense of urgency.

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Like many young leaders, early in my career, I thought a great decision was one that attracted widespread approval. When my colleagues smiled and nodded their collective heads, it reinforced (in my mind, at least) that I was an excellent decision maker.

But as time wore on, I saw the fallacy of this approach. Seeking broad consensus requires considerable compromise to incorporate each person’s perspective. The result is a decision that is the lowest common denominator: a choice that everyone can live with, but no one is really happy with.

Worse, consensus-seeking is almost always excruciatingly slow, and the higher up a leader climbs, the less often they are afforded the luxury of time. During my years as a senior executive, I was regularly asked to make quick, critical decisions in response to sensitive events — a negative media story that required an immediate response, a procedural breach that was being investigated by regulators, a material change to financial guidance, a catastrophic asset failure, and so on.

What I found was that the decisions I made under pressure were at least as good, if not better than the ones that I spent days agonizing over.

This led me to ask myself two questions:

  • Knowing that I can make good decisions under severe time pressure, what’s the DNA of those decisions — what actually makes them good?
  • If I could be disciplined enough to impose my own time pressure on decision-making, could the resulting decisions be both faster and better?

I distilled my learnings into the eight elements that optimize both the speed and accuracy of my decisions. Over the last 10+ years of my corporate career, putting this philosophy into practice has helped me lift my leadership performance and greatly enhance the outcomes of my team.

The Eight Elements of a Great Decision

As a new leader, learning to make good decisions without hesitation or procrastination is a capability that can set you apart from your peers. While others vacillate on tricky choices, your team could be hitting deadlines and producing the type of results that deliver true value. That’s something that will get you — and the team — noticed.

The only surefire way to evaluate the efficacy of a decision is to assess the outcomes. You’ll discover, over time, whether a decision was good, bad, or indifferent. But if you rely only on retrospective analysis, the path to better decisions can be tenuous: Hindsight is incredibly prone to attribution bias .

That said, if you had a checklist of attributes to prospectively evaluate a decision (like the one provided below), you could predict in advance whether or not it is likely to be a good one. Based on my experience, these are the eight core elements of great decisions.

1) Great decisions are shaped by consideration of many different viewpoints.

While consensus-seeking should never be your goal, this doesn’t give you the freedom to act unilaterally. For a decision to be properly formed, you need to consult with those who can contribute in a meaningful way.

This doesn’t mean you should seek out everyone’s opinion. The right people with the relevant expertise need to clearly articulate their views to help the accountable decision-maker (aka you) broaden their perspective and make the best choice. Seeking valuable input is the primary source of healthy, robust debate. It will help you gain a greater understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and come up with smart, effective solutions.

2) Great decisions are made as close as possible to the action.

Who exactly should you seek feedback from before making a decision? People who have the most extensive knowledge, experience, and perspective on the issues at hand. This is generally someone who works at a lower level in the organization — not necessarily someone in the room where the decision is being made.

Remember that the most powerful people at your company are rarely on the ground doing the hands-on work. Seek input and guidance from team members who are closest to the action — and give them credit for actually making your decision a better one.

3) Great decisions address the root cause, not just the symptoms.

You may be wondering what kind of information you should seek out from your team members or colleagues. Often, when faced with a difficult problem, we focus on identifying the symptoms, not the core issue that caused the problem in the first place. If you do this, the same problem is sure to reappear down the road.

Although you may need to urgently address the symptoms, once this is done, you should always develop a plan to fix the root cause. Reaching out to people who are closest to the issue at hand will help you identify what this is. Use your time with them to gather that information.

4) Great decisions are made by a clearly accountable person.

Even after receiving the feedback you need to make an informed decision, remember that you and you alone must be ready to claim responsibility for your choice. Weak leaders find it comforting to have their decisions endorsed by the people around them. They don’t want to feel exposed by making a decisive call that might prove unpopular, regardless of how necessary it might be. But when accountability is shared, it dilutes your decision and your effectiveness as the person making the call.

When you’re finding your footing as a leader, going out on a limb can feel scary, especially when you’re just starting to build your confidence. Even so, taking control and ensuring that every major decision is made by a clearly accountable person is key to building trust with your team members and your superiors, modeling autonomy, and improving overall performance. Without accountability, the only weapons in your arsenal are management by committee and decision-making by consensus.

5) Great decisions consider the holistic impacts of a problem.

One way to build up your confidence is to regularly practice balancing the risks and potential impacts of each decision you make. This is simply a matter of thinking as broadly as you can to identify the “what ifs” of your choice. How likely is it that a potential negative outcome will arise and, if it does, what would the consequences be?

For example, even making a relatively simple decision to alter the scope of one of your team’s projects might require you to consider the possible impacts on budget, resource allocations, timeframe, quality, and customer satisfaction.

6) Great decisions balance short-term and long-term value.

As you’re thinking about risk vs. impact, also consider the short-term vs. long term costs and benefits. Short-termism is a curse that plagues many leaders’ decision-making frames. It’s seductive to only consider short-term outcomes, particularly when you’re judged purely on the delivery of your annual work.

The further you progress in your career, however, the more obvious it becomes when you don’t pay sufficient attention to the long-term implications of your choices. Finding the right balance between short-term and long-term considerations is key to unlocking true value. The earlier you can incorporate this into your decision-making process, the better.

7) Great decisions are communicated well to stakeholders.

Whereas you don’t necessarily want everyone with a passing interest to participate in the decision-making process, you do want everyone aligned on the outcome. That’s why communicating the substance and reasoning behind your decisions to the stakeholders (including the powerful people in the room) is so important.

The purpose of this communication is not to seek approval or consensus on how you will solve the problem. Rather, you’re looking to bring everyone up to a consistent level of understanding, which is often necessary for the smooth implementation of a major decision.

8) Great decisions are timely.

Speeding up your decision-making process starts with understanding the core elements of a good decision. If you consider all of the elements listed above, then it’s simply a matter of addressing each one with a heightened sense of urgency.

For example, instead of painstakingly consulting everyone who wants to share their opinion, seek feedback only from those who can genuinely add value — and don’t wait for all of them to agree. Instead, use your own judgment, and a cost-benefit analysis, to chart the best course forward with the information you receive.

Many leaders procrastinate on decisions because they’re overwhelmed by fear of making a mistake or, even worse, of not being liked. But the extent to which you might labor on any particular facet of the decision-making process should be determined by one thing: risk. Your assessment of risk will dictate whether you should take a more or less cautious approach.

With a commitment to prospectively evaluating your decisions, you’ll find yourself able to make better decisions, faster than you’ve ever done before. Learning this as a young leader will accelerate your development and lift the performance of your team. The higher up you go, the greater the impact this skill will have on your organization’s culture and performance.

goal setting problem solving decision making planning

  • MM Martin G. Moore is the founder of Your CEO Mentor and author of No Bullsh!t Leadership and host of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. His purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally through practical, real world leadership content. For more information, please visit, www.martingmoore.com.

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smart goals for problem solving

12 SMART Goals Examples for Problem Solving

Everyone should aim to develop their problem-solving skills in life. It’s critical for career growth and personal development. That’s why establishing SMART goals is a valuable tool for achieving success and reaching desired outcomes.

This article will provide SMART goals examples for effective problem solving. Gaining inspiration to pursue these goals can help you become more organized and effective in problem-solving situations.

Table of Contents

What is a SMART Goal?

The SMART framework is an amazing way to establish practical goals . For those unaware, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Still confused? SMART goals are:

  • Specific: Accomplishing goals starts with defining them and how they will be achieved. The more detailed your goals for problem solving, the greater the likelihood you have of meeting them.
  • Measurable: Having a quantifiable goal is a crucial SMART component. Tracking your progress makes modifying or adjusting the path forward easier if needed. You’ll also have a tangible way to determine whether or not your objectives have been met.
  • Attainable: Try to decide on what is realistically possible before pursuing goals. If possible, break down your overarching goal into smaller objectives that fall within your current capabilities. Setting too high or unrealistic expectations cause you frustration and even giving up on your aspirations altogether.
  • Relevant: You must align your actions with your core values . Hence, take some time to reflect on how you want your goals to reflect your interests and values.
  • Time-based: Success doesn’t come without hard work and dedication, so you should have a specific timeline when working toward your dreams. You will stay organized and motivated throughout the journey when you set a deadline.

In today’s world, being able to identify and solve problems using analytical skills can’t be undervalued. Following the 5 SMART criteria above will allow you to achieve better results with fewer resources.

Here are 12 examples of SMART goals for better problem solving:

1. Define the Problem

“I’ll create a plan to define and describe the problem I’m trying to solve by the end of two weeks. This will allow me to identify the exact issue that needs to be addressed and develop an effective solution promptly.”

Specific: The goal outlines the task of defining and describing a problem.

Measurable: You can measure your progress by creating a plan after two weeks.

Attainable: The statement is within reach because it requires critical thinking and planning.

Relevant: Defining an issue is required for enhanced problem solving.

Time-based: There is a two-week timeline for accomplishing this goal.

2. Analyze Root Cause

“I will take the time to thoroughly analyze the root cause of a problem before I attempt to come up with a solution. Before jumping into a solution, I’ll consider the possible causes and try to figure out how they interact with each other.”

Specific: The SMART goal outlines what will be done to analyze the root cause of a problem.

Measurable: You could measure how often you take the time for analysis.

Attainable: This is realistic because taking the time to do a thorough analysis is possible.

Relevant: Gaining a better understanding of the root causes of a problem can lead to more effective solutions.

Time-based: You’ll follow this process every time you solve a problem, so this goal is ongoing.

3. Be Willing to Collaborate With Others

“For the duration of 10 months, my goal is to be willing to collaborate with others to find the best solution for any problem at hand. I want to be open to exchanging ideas and listening to the opinions of others so that we can solve our problems efficiently.”

Specific: The person must proactively strive to collaborate with others.

Measurable: You can keep track of how often you collaborate monthly.

Attainable: This is feasible because it requires only the willingness to collaborate and exchange ideas.

Relevant: Collaboration allows you to find better solutions and grow your network.

Time-based: You have 10 months to pursue this particular goal.

4. Evaluate Alternatives

“I will review and evaluate at least three alternative solutions to the problem by the end of this month. I’ll evaluate the costs and benefits of each solution, prioritize them based on their potential effectiveness and make my recommendation.”

Specific: You will need to review and evaluate three alternative solutions.

Measurable: Count how many alternative solutions you listed.

Attainable: With enough time and effort, anybody can review and evaluate multiple solutions.

Relevant: This goal is related to problem solving, which can advance your professional career .

Time-based: You have one month for goal achievement.

5. Implement Action Plan

“To ensure that my action plans are implemented effectively, I will create a timeline with concrete steps and review it every two weeks for the 6 months ahead. I want all aspects of my plan to take place as scheduled and the process is running smoothly.”

Specific: The aim is to create a timeline and review it every two weeks for 6 months.

Measurable: The person can compare their timeline to the actual results and ensure that every aspect of the plan takes place as scheduled.

Attainable: This goal is achievable if the individual has the time, resources, and support.

Relevant: Implementing an action plan applies to problem solving.

Time-based: Success will be reached after 6 whole months.

6. Ask the Right Questions

“I’ll learn to ask the right questions by reading two books on effective questioning strategies and attending a workshop on the same topic within the next quarter. This will allow me to get to the root of any problem more quickly.”

Specific: The goal states what you need to do (read two books and attend a workshop) to learn how to ask the right questions.

Measurable: You can check your progress by reading the books and attending the workshop.

Attainable: This is an achievable goal and can be met within the given time frame.

Relevant: Asking the right questions is key to solving any problem quickly.

Time-based: Goal completion should be accomplished within the next quarter.

asking questions

7. Be More Flexible

“I will seek opportunities to be more flexible when problem solving for the following 8 months. This could include offering creative solutions to issues, brainstorming ideas with colleagues, and encouraging feedback from others.”

Specific: This SMART goal is explicit because the person wants to become more flexible when problem solving.

Measurable: Check how often and effectively you follow the three action items.

Attainable : This goal is achievable if you dedicate time to being more open-minded.

Relevant: Flexibility is integral to problem solving, so this goal is highly relevant.

Time-based: Eight months is the allotted time to reach this goal.

8. Brainstorm Solutions

“I want to develop a list of 5 potential solutions by the end of this month for any problem that arises. I’ll brainstorm with my team and research to develop the options. We’ll use these options to evaluate the most feasible solution for a specific issue.”

Specific: You should come up with a list of 5 potential solutions with your team.

Measurable: Actively count how many potential solutions you come up with.

Attainable: This goal can be achieved with research and collaboration.

Relevant: Brainstorming solutions help you evaluate the best option for a certain issue.

Time-based: You should strive to meet this goal by the end of the month.

9. Keep a Cool Head

“When encountering a difficult problem, I will strive to remain calm and not rush into any decisions. For three months, I’ll take a few moments to pause, gather my thoughts and assess the situation with a clear head before taking action.”

Specific: The person identifies the goal of remaining calm when encountering complex problems.

Measurable: It is possible to measure success in terms of how long it takes to pause and assess the situation.

Attainable: Taking a few moments before taking action is realistic for most people.

Relevant: Keeping a cool head in difficult situations is beneficial for problem solving.

Time-based: This statement has an end date of three months.

10. Don’t Make Rash Assumptions

“I will no longer make assumptions or jump to conclusions without gathering facts. I’ll strive to be more open-minded when finding solutions to problems and take the time to consider all perspectives before making a decision.”

Specific: The goal is explicit in that individuals aim to be open-minded.

Measurable: You can evaluate how often assumptions are made without gathering facts or considering all perspectives.

Attainable: Anyone can take the time to consider different perspectives before making a decision.

Relevant: This is suitable for those who want to be more mindful and make better decisions.

Time-based: Since the goal is ongoing, you will pursue it on a daily basis.

11. Take Responsibility

“I will take responsibility for all my mistakes and be open to constructive criticism to improve as a professional by the end of the next quarter. I’ll also learn from my mistakes and take steps to ensure they’re not repeated.”

Specific: The statement is evident in that you will take responsibility for all mistakes.

Measurable: Progress towards this goal can be measured by how well you respond to constructive criticism.

Attainable: This is possible since the person is willing to learn and improve with constructive criticism.

Relevant: Taking responsibility for your mistakes is an important skill, making this an appropriate goal.

Time-based: You have one quarter to complete the SMART goal.

12. Let Your Creativity Flow

“I want to explore the range of my creative problem-solving abilities and come up with solutions for difficult situations. To do this, I’ll take a course in creative problem solving and apply the principles I learn to practical scenarios within two months.”

Specific: You will take a course in creative problem solving and apply the principles learned to practical scenarios.

Measurable: By enrolling in the course, you can monitor your learning progress over time.

Attainable: The goal should be realistic concerning time and resources.

Relevant: Recognize that creativity is vital in many industries.

Time-based: You should ideally reach this goal after two months.

Final Thoughts

Setting SMART goals is a fantastic approach to solving any problem. They provide a clear structure for breaking down complex tasks into manageable chunks and encourage goal-oriented thinking.

While SMART goals may not work for every situation, they can offer a valuable framework for solving complex issues. Thus, it’s beneficial to experiment with this tool to develop problem-solving strategies tailored to individual needs.

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Decision Making & Goal Setting Workshop Activities

Jonathan Courtney (AJ&Smart Berlin)

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)

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The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process.

What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples:

  • The conversion flow of our checkout
  • Our internal design process
  • How we organise events
  • Keeping up with our competition
  • Improving sales flow

Hyper Island

Letter to Myself

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Often done at the end of a workshop or program, the purpose of this exercise is to support participants in applying their insights and learnings, by writing a letter and sending it to their future selves. They can define key actions that they would like their future self to take, and express their reasons why change needs to happen.

Action Plan Workshop: The Arrow

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This workshop aims to help participants define, decide and achieve their goals. By supporting participants to envision where they want to be in a number of years on a holistic level, and defining the steps that will take them there, participants get a clearer picture of the action they need to take.

Gamestorming methods

Impact and Effort Matrix

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In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

MediaLAB Amsterdam

MoSCoW is a method that allows the team to prioritize the different features that they will work on. Features are then categorized into “Must have”, “Should have”, “Could have”, or “Would like but won‘t get”.

To be used at the beginning of a timeslot (for example during Sprint planning) and when planning is needed.

Liberating Structures

15% Solutions

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You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference. 

15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change. 

With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

Save time and effort designing your workshops

3 action steps.

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This is a small-scale strategic planning session that helps groups and individuals to take action toward a desired change. It is often used at the end of a workshop or programme. The group discusses and agrees on a vision, then creates some action steps that will lead them towards that vision. The scope of the challenge is also defined, through discussion of the helpful and harmful factors influencing the group.

Andy Pearson

Circle, Square, Triangle


At the end of a workshop, it's important to reflect on the things you've learnt, the things you still need to work on and how the things you've learnt in the workshop will help you improve. This activity encourages post-session reflection, and is suitable to be run remotely.

Thiagi Group

Strength Envelopes

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Social Virus


Project Point of Departure

Project Point of Departure.PNG

This is a method for individuals and teams to define the structure, direction and first steps of a project. The individual or team works through a set of questions and documents the answers in a sharable digital format. This can either be a “living” document that develops with the project it can be left as just a clear and concise record of the starting-point.

IDOARRT Meeting Design

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IDOARRT is a simple tool to support you to lead an effective meeting or group process by setting out clear purpose, structure and goals at the very beginning. It aims to enable all participants to understand every aspect of the meeting or process, which creates the security of a common ground to start from. The acronym stands for Intention, Desired Outcome, Agenda, Rules, Roles and Responsibilities and Time.

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  • J Patient Exp
  • v.7(5); 2020 Oct

Goal-Based Shared Decision-Making: Developing an Integrated Model

1 The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice – Williamson Translational Research Building, Dartmouth College, Hanover, USA

2 Radboud University Medical Center, Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare (IQ Healthcare), Nijmegen, the Netherlands

* Both authors have equal contribution to the authorship of the article.

Neeltje Petronella Catharina Anna Vermunt

3 The Dutch Council for Health and Society, Raad voor Volksgezondheid en Samenleving, The Hague, the Netherlands

Definitions of shared decision-making (SDM) have largely neglected to consider goal setting as an explicit component. Applying SDM to people with multiple long-term conditions requires attention to goal setting. We propose an integrated model, which shows how goal setting, at 3 levels, can be integrated into the 3-talk SDM model.

The model was developed by integrating 2 published models.

An integrated, goal-based SDM model is proposed and applied to a patient with multiple, complex, long-term clinical conditions to illustrate the use of a visualization tool called a Goal Board. A Goal Board prioritizes collaborative goals and aligns goals with interventional options.


The model provides an approach to achieve person-centered decision-making by not only eliciting and prioritizing goals but also by aligning prioritized goals and interventions.

Practice Implications:

Further research is required to evaluate the utility of the proposed model.


Expectations, intentions, and goals play a vital part in decision-making, so it seems odd that the early definitions of shared decision-making (SDM) neglected to include these critical aspects of planning future actions ( 1 – 6 ). This is especially odd given that formulating clear goals are key to long-term planning in patient-centered care. More recently, the role of SDM has expanded to consider long-term conditions ( 7 ) and patients with complex multiple health issues ( 8 ). Clinical practice guidelines typically only consider single diseases ( 9 – 12 ). Dealing with each disease separately can lead to polypharmacy and treatment burden ( 9 , 13 , 14 ), with the risk that inattention to context, or potential interactions, leads to care that is not aligned with individual goals or preferences ( 15 , 16 ). Many argue that paying attention to goals , a high priority for dealing with complex problems, has largely been neglected ( 17 – 22 , 23 ).

The absence of goal setting as an explicit step in SDM models has been criticized by clinicians who provide care for elderly patients with complex health conditions ( 24 – 32 ). Empirical work has led to a proposed 3-level model for goal setting ( 28 ). Patients typically seek help to address the first level of goals, that is, to obtain relief from symptoms or answers to direct concerns. Vermunt called this level symptom- or disease-specific goals. Goals can also refer to function, for example, losing the ability to walk upstairs. In addition, goals might draw on a person’s values, hopes, and priorities in life, which are labeled as fundamental goals. It may be easier to elicit goals in relation to symptoms and a loss of function than to address these longer horizon goals, which are often less clearly defined, but these fundamental goals are important as they help guide priorities. The 3-goal model describes the inter-relationships between these goal levels (symptomatic, functional, and fundamental) and how they serve as anchors or markers when decisions are being considered ( 28 ).

That SDM has failed to call explicit attention to the central role of goal setting, and that goals are multilayered, led to our realization that there was an opportunity to develop a model that clearly recognizes the relationship between goals and decision-making and to highlight the benefits of addressing goals in more detail. The recent update of the 3-talk SDM model paid attention to goals ( 33 ). But we also determined that more could be done to make sure that goals would be considered at 3 levels.

Our aim in this article is to develop an integrated goal-based model for SDM in order to provide both patients and clinicians with an SDM approach suitable for complex health-care problems. We hope that such a model will have high relevance for patients with complex health issues, who have more than 1 health-related condition, and where contextual factors makes decision-making challenging. We illustrate the model using a hypothetical clinical case and also propose a practical tool to support clinicians to adopt a communication process around goal setting.

To develop the new model, we contacted experts who had made key contributions to existing SDM models and had emphasized the role of goal setting in complex illness. We searched and summarized the literature in this area and held a series of meetings to (1) tabulate the key components of the 3-talk SDM model and the 3-level goal model, (2) agree on terms to use across both models, and (3) develop a provisional model by adopting the perspective of clinicians attempting to manage a complex clinical case.

We describe a hypothetical patient, Peter Smit, seeking help from a primary care clinician about multiple related problems experienced by many elderly individuals (see Box 1 ). We used an iterative approach, refining the model by considering the case from a clinician and patient perspective. We considered how a multilevel goal setting process would modify the existing 3-talk SDM model by paying attention to the elements listed in Box 1 . We outlined the steps required to accomplish a goal-based SDM model, suggested specific questions to be adapted by clinicians, and describe how the model might be used to manage Peter Smit’s case ( Box 2 ).

Elements Considered to Integrate the 3-Talk and 3 level Goal Models.

  • The relationship between goals and personal context, the problem or need identified
  • The different nature and levels of goals
  • Differences in goal priorities
  • Potential disagreements on goal priority between clinicians and patients
  • The relationship between the prioritization of goals and the range of possible interventions
  • Changes in decision-making processes, based on newly generated feedback loops
  • The cyclical and longitudinal nature of goal setting and goal attainment.

Peter Smit’s Case Description.

Divorced, lonely, drinking, and neglectful . Peter Smit is 70, divorced and retired. He often plays pool at a local bar, but he is lonely. He smokes and drinks roughly 5 units of alcohol most days. He has steep narrow stairs to his bedroom. He has fallen down these stairs on more than 1 occasion. This worries Peter. He neglects his house and his personal hygiene. His sister says that she can’t keep coming to clean up. She has telephoned the medical practice to say he’s not taking good care of himself.

Osteoarthritis of the hips. Peter has osteoarthritis in his left hip, which limits his walking. The pain wakes him up at night. He takes pain relievers.

Adult onset diabetes . His diabetes is poorly controlled with oral medication at the highest dose. His glycosylated hemoglobin level has been too high for at least a year, and during his last visit, his doctor said that insulin injections might have to be considered.

In daily practice, needs are often interdependent and arise from personal, medical, and social problems. Decision-making in these situations is complicated by changes in health states and shifting priorities ( 9 , 34 ). Moreover, patients and clinicians often have different agendas ( 9 , 35 – 39 ), which, if not made explicit, remain hidden, albeit influential. In presenting results, we will first describe the integrated conceptual model, followed by a description of the steps, tasks, and clinical questions that arise from the model. Finally, we will apply the new model (see Figure 1 ) to our hypothetical patient: Peter Smit.

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The goal-based shared decision-making model.

Goal-Based SDM: Describing the New Model

As we built the model, we perceived a significant change in how we thought about Peter Smit’s problems. First, we noticed how decision-making became a secondary concern as our focus shifted to goals, and significantly to the guiding nature of making fundamental goals explicit. We realized that the task of considering goals becomes influential across all phases of the 3-talk SDM process. Goals as well as problems become the focus, because solutions to problems are best evaluated against potential goal achievement. In the integrated model ( Figure 1 ), collaborative goal setting occupies a central place in the 3-talk SDM model. This goal-based SDM process ( Figure 1 ) consists of 3 steps: (1) goal-team talk, (2) goal-option talk, and (3) goal-decision talk. Goal-based SDM represents a shift in perspective: Previous models of SDM assume a relatively fixed range of options. Goal-based SDM by inherently influencing the range, type, and number of relevant options to be considered, also inevitably influences the decision-making process.

Goal-Team Talk

Team talk refers to the work needed to form a partnership between the clinician and the patient to support decision-making ( 33 ). Finding agreement on the nature of the problems comes first. By adding a goal setting process, and, where necessary, making the inter-relatedness of goals explicit, the patient is left in no doubt that their goals shape the effort to find good solutions. In goal-team talk , goals are best elicited in a collaborative process by paying attention to 3 levels (symptom-or disease-specific, functional, and fundamental) and to the views of both the clinician and the patient. We suggest starting by discussing fundamental goals, because fundamental goals will also guide discussions about functional and disease- or symptom-specific goals. Where goals are interdependent, attention to their interaction is required. Some goals may be at odds with each other, so the need to prioritize some goals, and to make decisions accordingly, will become evident.

Goal-team talk also enhances the diagnostic process by explicitly considering personal factors and contextual factors, and as with all diagnostic steps, accuracy is key. Eliciting goals at the 3 levels is likely to improve the relevance of interventions, especially where patients have multisystem problems as well as needs that also arise from personal and social contexts, as is the case for Peter Smit, where it becomes clear that resolving his isolation is a goal that he is reluctant to declare and he needs to feel well supported before he might be able to admit to this issue. It is important to say that this task needs not be arduous. Most goals, if accurately elicited, would presumably be relatively stable, and, if well-documented, goal setting at the 3 levels may not need to be completed at every clinical encounter.

Goal-Option Talk

Option talk refers to a process of comparing reasonable intervention options, using risk communication principles ( 33 ). Goal-option talk adds to this process because it follows the prioritized goals elicited during goal-team talk. Goals at the multiple levels will ideally guide the selection of interventions that could best achieve the desired outcomes. For example, using pain relief medication could address symptoms of arthritis, as well as help Peter undertake more housekeeping tasks. Prioritizing goals might generate options specifically developed to attain those goals, and to ideas about how to sequence interventions, and to be more explicit about the efforts expected by the patient, the clinician, or the care team. The existence of conflicting goals might require thinking about trade-offs. In Peter’s case for instance, the option to continue living independently may be at odds with his wish to be less lonely.

Goal-Decision Talk

Decision talk describes the task of eliciting patient preferences in order to determine a specific decision. Goal-decision talk is similar and also ensures that desired goals guide the deliberation process. Typically, decisions are made by assessing which options seem best, given the range of benefits and harms. In goal-decision talk, it is possible that more than 1 goal is considered. What might be the impact on symptoms, function, and more fundamental goals be? For Peter, being able to stay at home (a fundamental goal) will require attention to pain (a symptomatic goal) and to his ability to navigate the stairs (a functional goal). This illustrates that the goal-based SDM model has feedback loops. Realizing the difficulty of addressing both symptoms and function may lead Peter to consider whether living independently is even desirable. In other words, goal-based decisions require an iterative process of examining and reexamining how problems, goals, and potential interventions influence each other ( Figure 1 ). Decisions-to-be-made emerge or are refined by this process. An important element of goal-decision talk is planning the evaluation of goal attainment, an explicit feedback loop that becomes a new aspect of SDM.

Goal-Based SDM: Steps, Tasks, and Clinical Questions

The goal-based SDM model proposes a nonlinear iterative process. Goals are likely to evolve, as goal-team talk, goal-option talk, or goal-decision talk takes place. Goal priorities may shift, as potential consequences become clearer or as personal needs and contextual factors become evident. Table 1 illustrates the different steps and tasks to be considered and suggests useful questions at each step of the goal-based SDM process. Table 2 applies the model and illustrates how Peter Smit and his clinician achieve the steps.

A Goal-Based SDM Model: Steps, Tasks, and Clinical Questions.

Abbreviation: SDM, shared decision-making.

Peter’s Case Using Goal-Based SDM.

Visualizing the Results: Goal Board

Eliciting goals at the 3 levels, prioritizing them, and considering many possible interventions that could be helpful mean thinking about many things. Using language alone may not be ideal. In applying the model, we found it best to visualize these elements in what we called a Goal Board (see Figure 2 ). At a basic level, this could be a flat surface where goals could be summarized on pieces of colored paper, then moved up and down to illustrate goal priority. Goals may cluster at priority levels and the possible relationships between goals and the possible effect of interventions could be discussed. For example, improving the use of analgesics is primarily directed at the goal of reducing pain, but this intervention might also address the goal of improving mobility. Using a visualization method would help patients navigate the relationship between goals and interventions. Figure 2 shows an example of a near final version, which required collaboration between Peter and his clinician as they talked about which was the most urgent problem and how it could be solved.

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Goal Board: aligning prioritized goals with intervention options.

Key Insights

To summarize, by eliciting 3 levels of goals, we observed the need to use visualizing techniques to support the work of discussing prioritization and the potential impact of more than one intervention. Eliciting goals at the 3 levels leads to wider and deeper discussions about priorities, beyond resolving symptoms or biomedical abnormalities. Asking about fundamental goals leads to more insight about “what matters most” for individual patients. Talking about goals brings clarity about who is responsible for action: patients, health professionals, or others? And because interventions need to be tested, the process has to become iterative and regularly evaluated.

Discussion and Conclusion

Goal-based sdm.

Asking patients to think about goals entails adopting a mind shift, and it has significant consequences, especially if goals are conceived as having multiple levels, prioritized, and considered in relation to both their feasibility and the likely effectiveness of possible interventions. Vermunt’s work in specifying a multilevel goal model in health care, specifically for patients with complex illness ( 28 ), has brought more depth to recent discussions about the relevance of goals for decision-making. Goals play a central role in guiding health-care decisions, although of course the clinician has to judge when and how often to focus on goals. Taking mutual goals into account changes the nature of decision-making processes, because bringing goals into clearer focus changes how potential interventions are considered and offered. In short, the ends help define the means. A goal-based approach strengthens the likelihood of person-centered care being offered because it is more aligned to personal priorities, while also paying attention to what might be practical and realistic.

By proposing a goal-based SDM model, we made the following observations. Contrary to earlier models of SDM, prioritized goals steer the options presented and decisions that have to be made. Putting goal setting as the guiding principle for conducting clinical interactions has profound impact on relationship building and communication processes, especially when the focus goes to fundamental goals. Asking about an individual’s fundamental goals requires reflection about the future, priorities, values, and relationships, which are of course sensitive personal issues, and likely to require empathetic skilled communication. It is, therefore, inconceivable that dialogues about fundamental, and other related goals, could occur in the absence of a collaborative effort (40).

Strengths and weaknesses of the methods

By applying the integrated goal-based SDM model to a clinical case that represented multiple long-term conditions in the context of many social and psychological problems, we were addressing a common challenge for health systems across the globe ( 23 , 41 – 44 ). By imagining how a clinician could apply the goal-based SDM to Peter’s situation, we obtained insights and modified the model. We acknowledge that the utility of this integrated model requires testing in clinical contexts. We also acknowledge that the integration is the result of a collaboration between 2 clinicians who developed these 2 models and who are therefore likely to advocate that goals underpin decision-making processes. Further efforts are required to assess whether this proposed integration has merit.

Results in context

Proposing goal setting as part of SDM for older patients is not novel ( 35 ). Attention has recently been drawn to goal setting being a prerequisite to decision-making for individuals with multiple long-term conditions ( 19 , 20 , 24 , 25 , 28 , 29 , 31 , 32 ), and the sharing of treatment goals is at the core of the Ariadne principles, which aim to provide orientation in decision-making in situations where people face the challenges of multiple morbidity ( 9 , 36 ). However, we are not aware of previous efforts to embed goal setting into a model of SDM in order to assess neither the impact on decision-making nor efforts to consider the impact of setting goals at these 3 levels.

In hindsight, it is odd that goal setting has been absent from models of SDM. Although this proposed model is novel, and the application to a clinical case is hypothetical, we hope to have demonstrated the potential impact of this approach, especially for patients with complex problems.

Practice Implications

Further development of this goal-based SDM requires empirical work. Technological applications could assist with goal visualization, but the first task is to examine whether clinicians and patients would find the approach to be of value.

Author Biographies

Glyn Elwyn is a professor in health service research, focused on shared decision-making and coproduction.

Neeltje Petronella Catharina Anna Vermunt has a background as general practitioner and economist. Her academic interests focus on goal setting and shared decision-making in complex health-care. Furthermore she works for a strategic advisory council for the Dutch government.

Authors’ Note: Joint first authorship. Neeltje Vermunt developed the 3-goal model as part of her doctoral work in the Netherlands, supported by Gert Westert, PhD, Marcel Olde Rikkert, MD, PhD, Marjan J. Meinders, PhD, Mirjam Harmsen, PhD, Glyn Elwyn, BA, MD, MSc, PhD, and Jako Burgers, MD, PhD. Glyn Elwyn led a collaboration that led to the 3-talk model of shared decision-making. Glyn Elwyn and Neeltje Vermunt developed the goal-based 3-talk model of shared decision-making, including the Goal Board concept, and retain copyright on the design. Goal Board © Copyright of the Goal Board concept and layout 2018 belongs to Glyn Elwyn and Neeltje Vermunt. All rights are reserved. The Goal Board layout may not be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both Glyn Elwyn and Neeltje Vermunt.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The author(s) declared the following potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Financial: Glyn Elwyn has edited and published books that provide royalties on sales by the publishers: the books include Shared Decision Making (Oxford University Press) and Groups (Radcliffe Press). He has in the past provided consultancy for organizations, including (1) Emmi Solutions LLC who developed patient decision support tools; (2) National Quality Forum on the certification of decision support tools; (3) Washington State Health Department on the certification of decision support tools; and (4) SciMentum LLC, Amsterdam (workshops for shared decision making). Director of &think LLC which owns the registered trademark for Option Grids patient decision aids. He provides consultancy in the domain of shared decision-making and patient decision aids to (1) Access Community Health Network, Chicago (Federally Qualified Medical Centers), and (2) EBSCO Health Option Grids patient decision aids. Nonfinancial: He initiated the Option Grid Collaborative, and the existing tools are hosted on a website managed by Dartmouth College, on http://optiongrid.org/ , and are freely available until such time as they have expired. He owns copyright in measures of shared decision-making and care integration, namely, collaboRATE, integRATE, and Observer OPTION-5 and Observer OPTION-12. These measures are freely available for use. Neeltje Vermunt is employed by the Dutch Council for Health and Society (Raad voor Volksgezondheid en Samenleving, RVS), a strategic advisory council for the Dutch government. The Council had no role in the study design, the conduct of this research, in the writing of this article, or the decision to submit it for publication.

Funding: The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Essential Tools: Organization Prioritization, Time Management, Decision Making and Problem Solving

Learning Objectives:

  • Build trust through productive organization, prioritization, and time management
  • Identify strategies to increase organization and prioritization
  • Manage commitments to build trust and respect with peers and supervisors
  • Choose appropriate strategies and make sound and well-grounded decisions

Watch these videos on time management :

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Most+Popular+Time+Management+Funny&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=ED2A635BF1F59E96BB81ED2A635BF1F59E96BB81 time management techniques

https://youtu.be/0245yIOjdDk    Eisenhower matrix

https://youtu.be/tT89OZ7TNwc    Eisenhower matrix

Watch the Jar of Life Video—setting priorities :

https://youtu.be/v5ZvL4as2y0    Rocks, pebbles, sand story

Watch these videos on decision making :

https://youtu.be/lm9gOxnX5XM    Big Bang Theory decision making; funny

https://youtu.be/VrSUe_m19FY decision making – take action; funny

Making and Keeping Commitments

Our relationships with other people are vital to our effective participation in the world. We live in a world of engagement and the language we choose to use creates a power that ripples outwards. Somewhat similar to the reaction that occurs when we drop a pebble in a pond. We use language to not only describe our world but to create it. And effective communication, including keeping our commitments is central to that. Keeping commitments is a crucial factor for every family, friendship or partnership, and for every team, association, or organization. Every one of these groups is comprised of us, and others, engaging in a continuing cycle of conversations and commitments

Of all the types of conversations we have, the most potent and productive is when we make an offer to another, or when we request a commitment from another. And when that offer or request is accepted this can be characterized as ‘The Promise Cycle’ .  This simple act of making and managing promises then creates a mutual commitment from one person to another to take a specific future action.

And the responsibility that accompanies a promise is to do ‘what’ we said we would do, do it to the ‘standard’ to which we committed, and to do it at the ‘time’ we committed to. In other words, we must deliver what we promise, to the standard we promise and when we promise. The effectiveness of this process relies on the clarity of the conditions. In other words, how well formed and well expressed the commitment is, and how well it’s understood by both people.

The promise cycle can be described this way. It occurs when you offer to do something for another as an: Offer + Acceptance = Promise , or when another makes a request of you as a: Request + Acceptance = Promise . In life we bind ourselves to each other through promises and we begin to drift when we don’t deliver on those promises. Therefore the making and keeping of commitments is an important element of our communication. It determines predictability, certainty and continuity in all our various relationships.

Now imagine the profound impact that would occur in every aspect of life if all members of your family, your team, your associations, or your organization kept their commitments? Mutual trust would increase, and as a result efficiency, effectiveness and productivity would grow exponentially. Trust is central to our identity; such a simple process; such a profound impact. And In an organizational setting; understanding and using this process allows team and business leaders to develop a committed, collaborative, high- performance culture .


Now think of one instance in both your personal life and professional life where you have made a promise and delivered on that promise.

Then think of one instance in both your personal and professional life when you have made a promise and not delivered on that promise.

What were the implications and results?

Ada pted from: Robert Dunham, Institute for Generative Leadership, Boulder, CO   (C) 2015, Institute for Generative Leadership – http://generateleadership.com/

Excerpt from the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, 1989

Personal management has evolved in a pattern similar to many other areas of human endeavor. Major developmental thrusts, or ‘waves’ as Alvin Toffler calls them, follow each other in succession, each adding a vital new dimension.

Likewise, in the area of time management, each generation builds on the one before it – each one moves us toward greater control of our lives. The first wave or generation could be characterized by notes and checklists, an effort to give some semblance of recognition and inclusiveness to the many demands placed on our time and energy.

The second generation could be characterized by calendars and appointment books. This wave reflects an attempt to look ahead, to schedule events and activities in the future.

The third generation reflects the current time management field. It adds to those preceding generations the important idea of prioritization, of clarifying values, and of comparing the relative worth of activities based on their relationship to those values. In addition, it focuses on setting goals – specific long-, intermediate- and short-term targets toward which time and energy would be directed in harmony with values. It also includes the concept of daily planning, of making a specific plan to accomplish those goals and activities determined to be of greatest worth.

While the third generation has made a significant contribution, people have begun to realize that “efficient” scheduling and control of time are often counterproductive. The efficiency focus creates expectations that clash with the opportunities to develop rich relations, to meet human needs, and to enjoy spontaneous moments on a daily basis.

As a result, many people have become turned off by the time management programs and planner that make them feel too scheduled, too restricted, and they “throw the baby out with the bath water,” reverting to first or second generation techniques to preserve relationships, spontaneity, and quality of life.

But there is an emerging fourth generation that is different in kind. It recognizes that “time management” is really a misnomer – the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves. Satisfaction is a function of the expectation as well as realization. And expectation (and satisfaction) lies in our Circle of Influence.

Rather than focusing on things and time, fourth generation expectations focus on preserving and enhancing relationships and on accomplishing results – in short, on maintaining P/PC Balance [P stands for production of desired results and PC stands for the capacity to produce the desired results].

General Organizing Skills

Along with communication and computer skills, organizational skills are some of the most important transferable job skills a worker can possess. People need organizational skills at work to be more productive. Workers who know where to find notes or certain resources can save time. Therefore, they tend to get more done. There are a number of organizational skills for work, including those noted below.

Physical Organization

Clutter is often the culprit when it comes to disorganization in a work space. Make a point to clear out unneeded papers, file documents in the appropriate places and put unused supplies back in the supply closet. You don’t have to be a neat freak to be successful with physical organization. You might find that it fits your working style to designate a weekly session for busting through the accumulated clutter. Get into the habit of putting papers, gadgets, business cards, files, magazines, newspapers and supplies in their proper places. Throw away or shred items that are past their usable life.

Mental Organization

Keeping your mind organized can be a challenge when you are juggling the varied demands of performing a job. Prioritize projects and make to-do lists to keep yourself on track. Understand your personal working style and play to your strengths. Not everyone is cut out to be an accomplished multi-tasker. You might work best by focusing on finishing off one project at a time rather than balancing multiple tasks.

Planning is a needed workplace skill, and it is particularly important as person advances into more supervisory or managerial roles. Most work is centered on certain projects that must be completed within a specific time period. Projects are usually divided into many different tasks, and workers must plan their tasks ahead of time to bring the project to fruition. A person can also plan ahead in case certain problems come up that could potentially delay the project.

Set goals and outline the steps you need to take to reach them. Focus forward on goals that you may have set with your supervisor. Schedule time to work through the tasks involved so that you are making constant progress.

A goal is something you want to do, have or be or something your employer expects to happen over time.

The way you set your goals affects their effectiveness. Goal setting is deciding what you want to do, why you want to do it, when you are going to do it and how you are going to do it. Setting goals helps you to accomplish things which are important in both your work and home life. Plan the Plan and not the results. As you begin to think about your goals, keep the following things in mind.

  • Be Positive: have a good attitude
  • Be Realistic: know yourself and your comfort level
  • Set Deadlines: be realistic so you don’t become frustrated
  • Prioritize: make lists, break things into smaller pieces
  • Write down your goals & keep them visible: this will help you stay on task
  • Make your goals small and achievable : for better success
  • List your values : What’s important to you?
  • Plan for the future and place yourself there: visualize, fantasize

  Time Management

Having good organizational skills is about making the best use of your time. Being organize reduces the amount of time you have to dig to uncover important work related information. Understand where your time goes. For example, if you check email every five minutes, you might want to create a twice-a-day email schedule to more effectively handle your inbox. Maintain a calendar so you don’t miss important deadlines.

Thinking about time management can generate many questions for exploration and reflection.

Do we manage time or manage capacity? Do we manage time or manage our values and what we care about? Do we manage time or manage our choices? Do we manage tasks or manage outcomes? Do we manage our time or our energy?

Use of time is clearly a choice. When those choices lack grounding in a larger purpose and clear discernment of what we care about and what’s really important, the choices of how we spend our time can sometimes fail to deliver purposeful outcomes.

Taking time to consider at a more than superficial level what we care about and centering our focus on those cares generates different outcomes. Those who are grounded in a clear purpose and who allow that purpose to drive conversations for action and commitments make different choices that enable personal as well as customer satisfaction. These commitments are grounded in outcomes that matter rather than task completion. Spending time on tasks without connection to a greater purpose can cause frustration, a sense of overwhelm energy depletion, disappointment, exhaustion, and loss of clear direction.

Meeting Deadlines

One of the most important organizational skills is the ability to meet deadlines and use time wisely. It usually takes a little experience before an individual can properly assign tasks, allocate resources and complete a project on time. Meeting deadlines requires time management skills, which is an important organizational skill itself

Employees need time management organizational skills to keep track of meetings, appointments, tasks and deadlines. Time management skills will help you stay on schedule with everything you do. Time management skills will also help you avoid the last minute rush to complete tasks, eliminating potential stress in the process

Tracking Tasks

Organizational skills are needed to keep track of projects. Finding a way to track tasks will help keep you ahead of the game. Projects require a lot of individual tasks. These tasks need to be completed on time to reach the project deadline. If you work with project deadlines, use a project log to keep track of your progress. You can keep the project log on file in your computer or on paper. There is no right way. The important point is to do it to simplify your life as well as that of others.

Good organizational skills can help lead to success through many paths. Time is money. Organization saves time by keeping valuable data easily accessible, goals in focus and everyone on the same page. Employees who have good organizational skills are efficient at covering the demands of their jobs. This directly relates to a company’s bottom line. Poor organization leads to frustration on the part of a business owner, employees and customers. Keep an orderly office, work space, computer and mind to cultivate an environment that is focused on meeting business goals in a timely manner.

Organizational Skills: Prioritization

Prioritization is a valuable organizational skill. Some tasks may require immediate attention, others can wait. This skill set is closely linked to time management. We only have a limited amount of time to utilize during our workday, so place those tasks that have to be completed first at the head of a list. In the military, on the battlefield, doctors apply the organizational skill of “triage”; injured soldiers are placed into one of three categories, since it is physically impossible for the doctor to get to everyone at once. Wounded soldiers who are going to die, no matter what is done to them, are placed in one category. Soldiers who have serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, go into another category. Finally, those soldiers who require immediate attention and can be saved go into the third category. This is prioritization.

Organizational skills such as prioritization, organizing the workspace, time management , form the core basis of good organizational habits. Practical organizational skills include wise planning, time optimization, detail orientation, and prioritization . Last, but not least, would be to relieve stress ! A stressed out worker makes more mistakes, and may say something to a co-worker or subordinate in the “heat of the moment”, that they will later regret! Do whatever it takes for you personally to be relaxed, yet professional, in making your business decisions and conducting efficient operations. Implementing these organizational skills will contribute to a healthy work environment.

There are five steps to prioritizing your work

  • Think about what needs to be done– First, think about what needs to be done. How do you juggle (prioritize) your daily activities? Make a list of daily activities, and think about how you work to accomplish them.
  • Decide and prioritize what to do– Now it is time to decide which goals are important to you, and how you can achieve them. Before you do, remember that relaxation is a key. How do you relax? Have you given yourself time to relax? What do you do to relax? Before you continue, think about relaxing and make a list of the things you do to relax. As you plan your day, allow time for yourself to relax and refresh.

By now, you have an idea of your goals. You should also have a list of how you organize your daily life and what your work style is. As a reminder, this list should tell you the following:

  • What your distractions are
  • When do you work best
  • What are your daily activities (commitments) are
  • When you work best

Keep your list in mind as you begin to set goals, break the goal into manageable pieces, order (prioritize) those pieces and achieve your goal. Learn to say no to distractions and extra demands on your time. Saying no can be difficult at first, but as you prioritize and work to achieve your goals you will see how important this can be.

  • Monitor and Evaluate : How am I doing? It is important to think about what you do while you do it.

It takes commitment to design a plan and stick to it. Remind yourself often of your objectives. Write short lists or put up photographs or articles to help remind you of our goal and your progress.

If you keep veering from the goal, maybe the objective is not something you want badly enough. If so, change it. Be flexible. Setting and achieving goals is a lifelong process. Set new objectives that are consistent with who you are and what you want. Objectives may change over time.

Here are some suggestions for monitoring and evaluating the way you work. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I doing well?
  • What could I improve?
  • What are the opportunities facing you?
  • What is getting in your way?
  • Practice Prioritizing —Write a list of things you need to accomplish. Decide what is most important and most urgent.       Prioritize list in order of importance Then, breakdown each item into a list of tasks that need to happen to complete it. Check off the tasks as you complete them.
  • Reward Yourself — Celebrate when you have completed your task.

Set up a reward system for yourself. It may be calling a friend, reading a couple of chapters of your favorite book, taking a bubble bath, shooting a few hoops, or taking a walk. Whatever it is should be meaningful to you.

Time Management: The Eisenhower Method

The Eisenhower Method helps you decide which action you should or shouldn’t do. It aids you to divide actions into one of four categories. The quadrants are divided by importance and urgency.

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

How to Use the Eisenhower Method

Using the Eisenhower quadrant is very easy. You pick an item from your to-do list and ask yourself these two questions.

  • “Is it urgent?”
  • “Is it important?”

You can now put the action into the correct quadrant.

Below is an explanation of each quadrant.

  • Not Urgent and Not Important Examples:
  • Time wasters (Ex: Facebook, checking e-mails all the time…)
  • Busy work (Ex: Work that doesn’t need to be done)
  • Procrastinating

You should not spend any time on activities in this quadrant. When is something not important? If it doesn’t progress you toward your goals, then why should you spend time doing it?

When is something not urgent? If it doesn’t matter when it is done, then it’s not urgent. It can be done today, or it can be done next week or even next year, it doesn’t matter.

The combination of not urgent and not important is the worst quadrant to spend your time in. Decrease your time in this quadrant and put it somewhere else. I prefer you put it in ‘not urgent and important’ .

  • Urgent and Not Important
  • Answering e-mails
  • Incoming phone calls
  • Interrupting colleagues

Since the tasks are still not important and you’re still not progressing towards your goals’ it’s better to not spend time here either. However, these tasks are urgent, therefore you can’t schedule them. They’re also hard to ignore, since urgent action often demands attention. Ex: A phone call or an interrupting colleague. Find a way to deal with these as quickly as possible.

  • Urgent and Important
  • Emergencies
  • Troubleshooting

You have to do these actions. They’re important. They progress you toward your goals, however, since they’re urgent, they’re often unplanned and unwanted.

You will always spend some time here, since emergencies will always happen. When they do, you have to deal with them. No excuses. After you deal with the situation, spend time to make sure it never happens again, minimize its occurrence or make preparations for when it happens again.

  • Not Urgent and Important
  • Building quality relationships with other people
  • Doing actual work to progress toward a major goal
  • Physical exercise

This is the quadrant in which you should spent most of your time. Most people however, don’t do this and spend most of their time in any of the other quadrants. Because these important tasks don’t scream to you like a ringing phone, they’re often neglected in favor of more urgent matters.

If you spend almost no time here, then your first important task is to save some time each day to work on the important things.

Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on and often forget about really important ones. If you spend all of your time concentrating on the urgent and important tasks you will just be firefighting. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent.

We can categorize tasks on two scales according to their importance and urgency. Making 4 categories and placing them in matrix known also as Time Matrix below.

time matrix

What is Decision Making?

People often find it hard to make decisions – inevitably we all have to make decisions all the time, some are more important than others.

Some people put off making decisions by endlessly searching for more information or getting other people to offer their recommendations.  Others resort to decision making by taking a vote, sticking a pin in a list or tossing a coin.

Regardless of the effort that is put into making a decision, it has to be accepted that some decisions will not be the best possible choice.  This page examines one technique that can be used for effective decision making and that should help you to make effective decisions now and in the future.

Although the following technique is designed for an organisational or group structure, it can be easily adapted to an individual level.

In its simplest sense: ‘ Decision Making is the act of choosing between two or more courses of action ‘.   However, it must always be remembered that there may not always be a ‘correct’ decision among the available choices.

There may have been a better choice that had not been considered, or the right information may not have been available at the time.  Because of this, it is important to keep a record of all important decisions and the reasons why these decisions were made, so that improvements can be made in the future.  This also provides justification for any decision taken when something goes wrong.

Hindsight might not be able to correct past mistakes, but it will aid improved decision making in the future.

Effective Decision Making

Although decisions can be made using either intuition or reasoning, a combination of both approaches is often used.  Whatever approach is used, it is usually helpful to structure decision making in order to:

  • Reduce more complicated decisions down to simpler steps.
  • See how any decisions are arrived at.
  • Plan decision making to meet deadlines.

Stages of Decision Making

In psychology, decision-making is regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief or a course of action among several alternative possibilities. Every decision-making process produces a final choice that may or may not prompt action. Decision-making is the study of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision maker. Decision-making is one of the central activities of management and is a huge part of any process of implementation.

Many different techniques of decision making have been developed, ranging from simple rules of thumb, to extremely complex procedures.  The method used depends on the nature of the decision to be made and how complex it is.

The method described here follows seven stages:

  • Listing all possible solutions/options.
  • Setting a time scale and deciding who is responsible for the decision.
  • Information gathering.
  • Weighing up the risks involved.
  • Deciding on values, or in other words what is important.
  • Weighing up the pros and cons of each course of action.
  • Making the decision.
  •  Listing Possible Solutions/Options

In order to come up with a list of all the possible solutions and/or options available it is usually appropriate to work on a group (or individual) problem-solving process. This process, could include brainstorming or some other ‘idea generating’ process (see our page: Problem Solving for more information). 

This stage is important to the overall decision making processes as a decision will be made from a selection of fixed choices.  Always remember to consider the possibility of not making a decision or doing nothing and be aware that both options are actually potential solutions in themselves.

  • Setting a Time Period and Deciding Who is Responsible for the Decision

In deciding how much time to make available for the decision making process, it helps to consider the following:

  • How much time is available to spend on this decision?
  • Is there a deadline for making a decision and what are the consequences of missing this deadline?
  • Is there an advantage in making a quick decision?
  • How important is it to make a decision?  How important is it that the decision is right?
  • Will spending more time improve the quality of the decision?

Responsibility for the Decision

Before making a decision, it needs to be clear who is going to take responsibility for the decision.  Remember that it is not always those making the decision who have to assume responsibility for it.  Is it an individual, a group or an organisation?  This is a key question because the degree to which responsibility for a decision is shared can greatly influence how much risk people are willing to take.

If the decision making is for work then it is helpful to consider the structure of the organization that you are in.  Is the individual responsible for the decisions he or she makes or does the organization hold ultimate responsibility?  Who has to carry out the course of action decided?  Who will it affect if something goes wrong?  Are you willing to take responsibility for a mistake?

Finally, you need to know who can actually make the decision.  When helping a friend, colleague or client to reach a decision, in most circumstances the final decision and responsibility will be taken by them.  Whenever possible, and if it is not obvious, it is better to make a formal decision as to who is responsible for a decision.  This idea of responsibility also highlights the need to keep a record of how any decision was made, what information it was based on and who was involved.  Enough information needs to be kept to justify that decision in the future so that, if something does go wrong, it is possible to show that your decision was reasonable in the circumstance and given the knowledge you held at the time.

3.  Information Gathering

Before starting on the process of making a decision, all relevant information needs to be gathered.

If there is inadequate or out-dated information then it is more likely that a wrong decision might be made.  Also, if there is a lot of irrelevant information then the decision will be difficult to make, it will be easier to become distracted by unnecessary factors.

There is a need for up-to-date, accurate information on which to make decisions.  Such information needs to be gathered so that a well-informed decision can be made.  The amount of time spent on information gathering has to be weighed against how much you are willing to risk making the wrong decision.  In a group situation, such as at work, it may be appropriate for different people to research different aspects of the information required.

  • Weighing up the Risks Involved

One key question is how much risk should be taken in making the decision? Generally, the amount of risk an individual is willing to take depends on:

  • The seriousness of the consequences of taking the wrong decision.
  • The benefits of making the right decision.
  • Not only how bad the worst outcome might be, but also how likely that outcome is to happen.

It is also useful to consider what the risk of the worst possible outcome occurring might be, and to decide if the risk is acceptable.  The choice can be between going ‘all out for success’ or taking a safe decision.

  • Deciding on Values

Everybody has their own unique set of values – what they believe to be important.

Many people decide to buy a car for themselves but different people buy different cars based on their own personal values.  One person might feel that price is the most important feature, whereas another person might be more concerned with its speed and performance.  Others might value safety, luggage space or the cars impact on the environment or a combination of these features.

Depending on which values are considered important, different opinions may seem more or less attractive.  If the responsibility for a decision is shared it is possible that one person might not have the same values as the others.  In such cases, it is important to obtain a consensus as to which values are to be given the most weight.  It is important that the values on which a decision is made are understood because they will have a strong influence on the final choice.

People do not make decisions based on just one of their values.  They will consider all their values which are relevant to the decision and prioritise them in order of importance. If you were to buy a car, what would be the five most important factors to you?

  • Weighing the Pros and Cons

It is possible to evaluate the pros and cons of each possible solution/option by considering the possible advantages and disadvantages. 

One aid to evaluating any solution/option is to use a ‘balance sheet’, weighing up the pros and cons (benefits and costs) associated with that solution. Having listed the pros and cons, it may be possible to immediately decide whether the option is viable.

However, it may be useful to rate each of the pros and cons on a simple 1 to 10 scale (with 10 high – most important to 1 low – least important):

In scoring each of the pros and cons it helps to take into account how important each item on the list is in meeting values.  This balance sheet approach allows both the information to be taken into account as well as the values, and presents them in a clear and straight forward manner.

  • Making the Decision

There are many techniques that can be used to help in reaching a decision.  The pros and cons method (as above) is just one way of evaluating each of the possible solutions/options available.

There are other techniques which allow for more direct comparisons between possible solutions.  These are more complicated and generally involve a certain amount of calculation.  These can be particularly helpful when it is necessary to weigh a number of conflicting values and options.

For example, how would you decide between a cheap to buy but expensive to run car and another more expensive car that is more economical to keep on the road?

Intuitive Judgments:   In addition to making reasoned decisions using the techniques shown above, in many cases people use an intuitive approach to decision making.  When making a decision many influences, which have not been considered, may play a part.  For example, prejudice or wishful thinking might affect judgment.  Reliance is often placed on past experience without consideration of past mistakes.  Making a decision using intuition alone should be an option and not done merely because it is the easy way out, or other methods are more difficult.

Intuition is a perfectly acceptable means of making a decision, although it is generally more appropriate when the decision is of a simple nature or needs to be made quickly.  More complicated decisions tend to require a more formal, structured approach.  It is important to be wary of impulsive reactions to a situation and remember to keep a record of the decision for future reference, no matter whether the decision was made intuitively or after taking a reasoned approach.

If possible, it is best to allow time to reflect on a decision once it has been reached.  It is preferable to sleep on it before announcing it to others.  Once a decision is made public, it is very difficult to change.

Decision making is the act of choosing between a number of alternatives.  In the wider process of problem solving, decision making involves choosing between possible solutions to a problem.  Decisions can be made through either an intuitive or reasoned process, or a combination of the two.  There are usually a number of stages to any structured decision making.

You should always remember that no decision making technique should be used as an alternative to good judgement and clear thinking.  All decision making involves individual judgement, and systematic techniques are merely there to assist those judgements.

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Guidelines for Problem Solving and Decision Making

Much of what people do is solve problems and make decisions. Often, they are “under the gun”, stressed and very short of time. Consequently, when they encounter a new problem or decision they must make, they react with a decision that seemed to work before. It’s easy with this approach to get stuck in a circle of solving the same problem over and over again. Therefore, it’s often useful to get used to an organized approach to problem solving and decision making. Not all problems can be solved and decisions made by the following, rather rational approach. However, the following basic guidelines will get you started. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the list of guidelines. After you’ve practiced them a few times, they’ll become second nature to you — enough that you can deepen and enrich them to suit your own needs and nature.

(Note that it might be more your nature to view a “problem” as an “opportunity”. Therefore, you might substitute “problem” for “opportunity” in the following guidelines.)

  • Define the problem

This is often where people struggle. They react to what they think the problem is. Instead, seek to understand more about why you think there’s a problem.

Define the problem: (with input from yourself and others). Ask yourself and others, the following questions:

  • What can you see that causes you to think there’s a problem?
  • Where is it happening?
  • How is it happening?
  • When is it happening?
  • With whom is it happening? (HINT: Don’t jump to “Who is causing the problem?” When we’re stressed, blaming is often one of our first reactions. To be an effective manager, you need to address issues more than people.)
  • Why is it happening?
  • Write down a five-sentence description of the problem in terms of “The following should be happening, but isn’t …” or “The following is happening and should be: …” As much as possible, be specific in your description, including what is happening, where, how, with whom and why. (It may be helpful at this point to use a variety of research methods.

Defining complex problems:

If the problem still seems overwhelming, break it down by repeating steps 1-7 until you have descriptions of several related problems.

Verifying your understanding of the problems— it helps a great deal to verify your problem analysis for conferring with a peer or someone else.

Prioritize the problems— if you discover that you are looking at several related problems, then prioritize which ones you should address first.

Note the difference between “important” and “urgent” problems. Often, what we consider to be important problems to consider are really just urgent problems. Important problems deserve more attention. For example, if you’re continually answering “urgent” phone calls, then you’ve probably got a more “important” problem waiting.

Understand your role in the problem— your role in the problem can greatly influence how you perceive the role of others. For example, if you’re very stressed out, it’ll probably look like others are, too, or, you may resort too quickly to blaming and reprimanding others. Or, you are feeling very guilty about your role in the problem; you may ignore the accountabilities of others.

  • Look at potential causes for the problem
  • It’s amazing how much you don’t know about what you don’t know. Therefore, in this phase, it’s critical to get input from other people who notice the problem and who are affected by it.
  • It’s often useful to collect input from other individuals one at a time (at least at first). Otherwise, people tend to be inhibited about offering their impressions of the real causes of problems.
  • Write down what your opinions and what you’ve heard from others.
  • It’s often useful to seek advice from a peer or your supervisor in order to verify your impression of the problem.
  • Write down a description of the cause of the problem and in terms of what is happening, where, when, how, with whom and why.
  • Identify alternatives for approaches to resolve the problem

At this point, it’s useful to keep others involved (unless you’re facing a personal and/or other performance problem). Brainstorm for solutions to the problem. Very simply put, brainstorming is collecting as many ideas as possible, and then screening them to find the best idea. It’s critical when collecting the ideas to not pass any judgment on the ideas — just write them down as you hear them.

  • Select an approach to resolve the problem

When selecting the best approach, consider:

  • Which approach is the most likely to solve the problem for the long term?
  • Which approach is the most realistic to accomplish for now? Do you have the resources? Are they affordable? Do you have enough time to implement the approach?
  • What is the extent of risk associated with each alternative?

(The nature of this step, in particular, in the problem solving process is why problem solving and decision making are highly integrated.)

  • Plan the implementation of the best alternative (this is your action plan)
  • Carefully consider “What will the situation look like when the problem is solved?”
  • What steps should be taken to implement the best alternative to solving the problem? What systems or processes should be changed in your organization, for example, a new policy or procedure? Don’t resort to solutions where someone is “just going to try harder”.
  • How will you know if the steps are being followed or not? (these are your indicators of the success of your plan)
  • What resources will you need in terms of people, money and facilities?
  • How much time will you need to implement the solution? Write a schedule that includes the start and stop times, and when you expect to see certain indicators of success.
  • Who will primarily be responsible for ensuring implementation of the plan?
  • Write down the answers to the above questions and consider this as your action plan.
  • Communicate the plan to those involved in implementing it and, at least, to your immediate supervisor.

(An important aspect of this step in the problem-solving process is continual observation and feedback.)

  • Monitor implementation of the plan

Monitor the indicators of success:

  • Are you seeing what you would expect from the indicators?
  • Will the plan be done according to schedule?
  • If the plan is not being followed as expected, then consider: Was the plan realistic? Are there sufficient resources to accomplish the plan on schedule? Should more priority be placed on various aspects of the plan? Should the plan be changed?
  • Verify if the problem has been resolved or not

One of the best ways to verify if a problem has been solved is to return to normal. Watch to see that the solution implemented solved the problem. If not, revisit the process and make necessary corrections.

The Six Step Problem-solving Model

6-step model

Problem solving is the mental process you follow when you have a goal but can’t immediately understand how to achieve it. It’s a process that depends on you – how you perceive a problem, what you know about it, and the end-state you want to reach.

Solving a problem involves a number of cognitive activities:

  • determining what the problem really is
  • identifying the true causes of the problem and the opportunities for reaching a goal
  • generating creative solutions to the problem
  • evaluating and choosing the best solution, and
  • implementing the best solution, then monitoring your actions and the results to ensure the problem is solved successfully

Clearly, problem solving isn’t a one-step process. Your success will depend on whether you approach and implement each of the stages effectively. The best way to do this is to use a well-established, systematic problem-solving model.

The six steps of problem solving

Problems vary widely, and so do their solutions. Sometimes a problem and its solution are clear, but you don’t know how to get from point A to point B. At other times, you may find it hard to define what’s wrong or how to fix it. Regardless of what a problem is, you can use a six-step problem-solving model to address it. This model is highly flexible and can be adapted to suit various types of problems. It also comes with a flexible set of tools to use at each step. The model is designed to be followed one step at a time, but you may find that some stages don’t require as much attention as others. This will depend on your unique situation.

The steps in the problem-solving model are as follows:

Identify the problem – Defining the problem is a crucial step that involves digging deeper to identify what it is that needs to be solved. The more clearly a problem is defined, the easier you’ll find it to complete subsequent steps. A symptom is a phenomenon or circumstance that results from a deeper, underlying condition. It’s common to mistake symptoms for problems themselves – and so to waste a lot of time and effort on tackling consequences of problems instead of their causes. To define a problem, you can use gap analysis, which involves comparing your current state to the future state you want to be in, to identify the gaps between them.

Gather the data and analyze the problem – You decide what type of problem it is – whether there’s a clear barrier or circumstance you need to overcome, or whether you need to determine how to reach a goal. You then dig to the root causes of the problem, and detail the nature of the gap between where you are and where you want to be. The five-why analysis is a tool that’ll help you get to the heart of the problem. Ask “Why?” a number of times to dig through each layer of symptoms and so to arrive at the problem’s root cause. You can get to the root of a more complicated problem using a cause-and-effect diagram. A cause is something that produces an effect, result, or consequence – or what contributed to the current state of affairs. Categories of causes include people, time, and the environment.

Identify as many potential solutions as you can – Brainstorm creatively – ask lots of questions about who, what, where, when, and how of the causes to point to various possibilities. Don’t limit yourself by considering practicalities at this stage; simply record your ideas.

Select and plan the solution – In evaluating your ideas, more options could present themselves. You could do this by rating each possible solution you came up with in step 3 according to criteria such as how effective it will be, how much time or effort it will take, its cost, and how likely it is to satisfy stakeholders.

During the planning step, you determine what steps must be taken, designating tasks where necessary. And you decide on deadlines for completing the actions and estimate the costs of implementing them. You also create a contingency plan in case of unforeseen circumstances so that if anything goes wrong with your plan, you have a “plan B” in place. Typically, this stage involves narrowing down the possible ways to implement the solution you’ve chosen, based on any constraints that apply. You also should draw up an action plan. The complexity of the plan will depend on the situation, but it should include the who, what, and when of your proposed solution.

Implement the solution – This is an ongoing process. You need to ensure the required resources remain available and monitor progress in solving the problem; otherwise, all the work you’ve done might be for nothing.

Evaluate the results —Check to see that your gained a favorable outcome and continue to monitor over time. If the result is not exactly what you hoped for, evaluate the places that may have contributed to the lesser outcome, revise your plan and try again.

Remember that this model is highly adaptable. Although you shouldn’t skip any of the six steps, you can tailor the amount of time you spend on each stage based on the demands of your unique situation.

The six-step problem-solving model, and the tools it provides, is an effective, systematic approach to problem solving. By following each step consciously, you can ensure that generating solutions is a fact-driven, objective, and reliable process. It encourages you to dig deeper to the root cause, allows you to get input from others, to be creative when finding solutions, and to monitor your solutions to make sure they’re working. So by following this model you’re more likely to come up with good, original, lasting solutions.

To solve problems effectively, you need to use a good problem-solving model. The six-step model is a tried-and-tested approach. Its steps include defining a problem, analyzing the problem, identifying possible solutions, choosing the best solution, planning your course of action, and finally implementing the solution while monitoring its effectiveness.

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Effective goal setting, decision making, and problem-solving (uno campus), areas of study, course type.

Stressed business concept,  business decision  for strategy startup of business investment

Hours: 6 | CEUs: 0.6

Time: 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM

This workshop will take you step-by-step through from the big picture thinking and goal setting down to the daily details of planning and achieving results for yourself and your team. We will also explore defined methods for effective goal setting and achievement, the critical ability to solve problems systematically and how to make clear, correct decisions under pressure. We also explore how to lead your team to success through empowered goal-oriented, emotional intelligence, and effective communication.

Target Audience:

This workshop is designed for team leads, supervisors, managers and executives who desire to learn practical strategies and techniques that will assist them in setting important and realistic goals, solve problems effectively and make good decisions.

Key Concepts

  • Understanding how to identify, set, communicate, and manage goals
  • Recognizing, minimizing and eliminating barriers to successful goal achievement
  • Understanding what “to own” yourself and how to delegate effectively to achieve goals and build your team’s goal orientation
  • Understanding problem-solving and decision-making as key competencies for successful management and leadership
  • Understanding and using seven key techniques and tools to improve problem-solving and decision-making
  • Building a Culture: Teaching and empowering others to be better problem-solvers and decision-makers

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Certificates of completion will be given to all students who have satisfactorily completed course requirements. Multi-course programs require satisfactory completion of all courses before a certificate is given.

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E. J. Smith has been fortunate to have a career that has spanned several disciplines ranging from line level production and operations management as a supervisor at General Electric Aviation; mid-level operations management at AT&T; sales and operations management at AT&T, Merck, and Tokos Medical, Inc. His experience also includes executive level management in sales, operations, and strategic planning gat Tokos Medical and HEALTHDYNE, Inc. (later known as MATRIA Healthcare). His experience spans construction projects, technology projects, performance management projects, business development research projects, as well as training projects both domestically and internationally in countries such as South Korea, Chile, Colombia, Romania, and the Netherlands. He has managed budgets in excess of $1 billion, and he has had almost 2,000 employees. His formal education consists of a Bachelor’s of Science in Management from Southern University and an MBA from the University of Cincinnati.

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7 Problem-Solving Skills That Can Help You Be a More Successful Manager

Discover what problem-solving is, and why it's important for managers. Understand the steps of the process and learn about seven problem-solving skills.

[Featured Image]:  A manager wearing a black suit is talking to a team member, handling an issue  utilizing the process of problem-solving

1Managers oversee the day-to-day operations of a particular department, and sometimes a whole company, using their problem-solving skills regularly. Managers with good problem-solving skills can help ensure companies run smoothly and prosper.

If you're a current manager or are striving to become one, read this guide to discover what problem-solving skills are and why it's important for managers to have them. Learn the steps of the problem-solving process, and explore seven skills that can help make problem-solving easier and more effective.

What is problem-solving?

Problem-solving is both an ability and a process. As an ability, problem-solving can aid in resolving issues faced in different environments like home, school, abroad, and social situations, among others. As a process, problem-solving involves a series of steps for finding solutions to questions or concerns that arise throughout life.

The importance of problem-solving for managers

Managers deal with problems regularly, whether supervising a staff of two or 100. When people solve problems quickly and effectively, workplaces can benefit in a number of ways. These include:

Greater creativity

Higher productivity

Increased job fulfillment

Satisfied clients or customers

Better cooperation and cohesion

Improved environments for employees and customers

7 skills that make problem-solving easier

Companies depend on managers who can solve problems adeptly. Although problem-solving is a skill in its own right, a subset of seven skills can help make the process of problem-solving easier. These include analysis, communication, emotional intelligence, resilience, creativity, adaptability, and teamwork.

1. Analysis

As a manager , you'll solve each problem by assessing the situation first. Then, you’ll use analytical skills to distinguish between ineffective and effective solutions.

2. Communication

Effective communication plays a significant role in problem-solving, particularly when others are involved. Some skills that can help enhance communication at work include active listening, speaking with an even tone and volume, and supporting verbal information with written communication.

3. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage emotions in any situation. People with emotional intelligence usually solve problems calmly and systematically, which often yields better results.

4. Resilience

Emotional intelligence and resilience are closely related traits. Resiliency is the ability to cope with and bounce back quickly from difficult situations. Those who possess resilience are often capable of accurately interpreting people and situations, which can be incredibly advantageous when difficulties arise.

5. Creativity 

When brainstorming solutions to problems, creativity can help you to think outside the box. Problem-solving strategies can be enhanced with the application of creative techniques. You can use creativity to:

Approach problems from different angles

Improve your problem-solving process

Spark creativity in your employees and peers

6. Adaptability

Adaptability is the capacity to adjust to change. When a particular solution to an issue doesn't work, an adaptable person can revisit the concern to think up another one without getting frustrated.

7. Teamwork

Finding a solution to a problem regularly involves working in a team. Good teamwork requires being comfortable working with others and collaborating with them, which can result in better problem-solving overall.

Steps of the problem-solving process

Effective problem-solving involves five essential steps. One way to remember them is through the IDEAL model created in 1984 by psychology professors John D. Bransford and Barry S. Stein [ 1 ]. The steps to solving problems in this model include: identifying that there is a problem, defining the goals you hope to achieve, exploring potential solutions, choosing a solution and acting on it, and looking at (or evaluating) the outcome.

1. Identify that there is a problem and root out its cause.

To solve a problem, you must first admit that one exists to then find its root cause. Finding the cause of the problem may involve asking questions like:

Can the problem be solved?

How big of a problem is it?

Why do I think the problem is occurring?

What are some things I know about the situation?

What are some things I don't know about the situation?

Are there any people who contributed to the problem?

Are there materials or processes that contributed to the problem?

Are there any patterns I can identify?

2. Define the goals you hope to achieve.

Every problem is different. The goals you hope to achieve when problem-solving depend on the scope of the problem. Some examples of goals you might set include:

Gather as much factual information as possible.

Brainstorm many different strategies to come up with the best one.

Be flexible when considering other viewpoints.

Articulate clearly and encourage questions, so everyone involved is on the same page.

Be open to other strategies if the chosen strategy doesn't work.

Stay positive throughout the process.

3. Explore potential solutions.

Once you've defined the goals you hope to achieve when problem-solving , it's time to start the process. This involves steps that often include fact-finding, brainstorming, prioritizing solutions, and assessing the cost of top solutions in terms of time, labor, and money.

4. Choose a solution and act on it.

Evaluate the pros and cons of each potential solution, and choose the one most likely to solve the problem within your given budget, abilities, and resources. Once you choose a solution, it's important to make a commitment and see it through. Draw up a plan of action for implementation, and share it with all involved parties clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing. Make sure everyone understands their role for a successful conclusion.

5. Look at (or evaluate) the outcome.

Evaluation offers insights into your current situation and future problem-solving. When evaluating the outcome, ask yourself questions like:

Did the solution work?

Will this solution work for other problems?

Were there any changes you would have made?

Would another solution have worked better?

As a current or future manager looking to build your problem-solving skills, it is often helpful to take a professional course. Consider Improving Communication Skills offered by the University of Pennsylvania on Coursera. You'll learn how to boost your ability to persuade, ask questions, negotiate, apologize, and more. 

You might also consider taking Emotional Intelligence: Cultivating Immensely Human Interactions , offered by the University of Michigan on Coursera. You'll explore the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills common to people with emotional intelligence, and you'll learn how emotional intelligence is connected to team success and leadership.

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Article sources

Tennessee Tech. “ The Ideal Problem Solver (2nd ed.) , https://www.tntech.edu/cat/pdf/useful_links/idealproblemsolver.pdf.” Accessed December 6, 2022.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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Perspectives & resources, what is secondary transition and why is it important for students with disabilities.

  • Page 1: What Is Secondary Transition?
  • Page 2: The Importance of Secondary Transition Planning

What can school personnel do to help students in the transition planning process?

  • Page 3: Components of Secondary Transition
  • Page 4: Program Structure

Page 5: Student-Focused Planning

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  • Page 9: References & Additional Resources
  • Page 10: Credits

Student-focused planning , another of the five components of transition programming, involves identifying a student’s goals and interests and putting supports in place to help the student achieve his or her goals and experience post-school success. This can be accomplished by:

  • Using transition assessment data
  • Teaching participation skills

Transition Assessments

School personnel should use transition assessments to gather information about a student’s hopes or goals for current and future work, living, and social environments. The assessment results serve as the foundation for the transition goals written into the IEP. When selecting or using transition assessments, it is helpful for teachers or school personnel to follow some general guidelines:

teacher helping student

  • What are my talents and interests?
  • What are my abilities?
  • What do I want in life now and in the future?
  • What are the main barriers to getting what I want from school and my community?
  • What are my options at school and in my community for preparing me to do what I want now and in the future?

Click to view examples of each type.

  • Select appropriate transition assessments based on a student’s age, academic abilities, post-school ambitions (e.g., college, employment), and community opportunities (e.g., local training options).


Service or support related to a student’s disability that allows her or him to fully access a given subject matter and to accurately demonstrate knowledge without requiring a fundamental alteration to the assignment’s or test’s standard or expectation.

  • Whenever possible, administer assessments in environments that resemble the setting where the student will be living, working, or studying.
  • Use multiple assessments and gather information from several people to make an informed decision.

Jim Martin discusses how the transition assessment process helps to both define and refine a student’s post-school goals (time: 2:49).

Jim Martin, PhD

Jim Martin, PhD Director, Zarrow Center Department of Educational Psychology University of Oklahoma

View Transcript

Transcript: Jim Martin, PhD

It begins with quality transition assessment. The special education laws tell us that we have to use transition assessments to help students develop their transition goals. There’s no shortage of transition assessments. We just have to find transition assessments that match students’ skills and abilities so that it yields useful information so students and families and educators can get together and use that to define what their goals are. We need to have students answer two basic sets of questions. The first set of questions focus on their post school goals. Where do students want to live, learn, and work when they’re out of high school? Answers those questions then provide the post-secondary goals. To answer those questions, students use the results of their transition assessments, conversation with parents, friends, educators to come up with tentative answers to those questions, realizing that they’re going to change probably year after year after year as students learn more about themselves, what their strengths are, what their needs are, what various jobs are out there in the world, the extent that they want to study a particular area after high school. All of those answers influences their responses to those questions, where do I want to learn, where do I want to live, where do I want to work when I’m out of high school. I think what’s probably more important than the answer to the post-secondary goals because those many cases are way off into the future, but they kind of set the direction for where the boat is going. What I think is almost more important are the answers to a different set of questions. What do I have to learn now to live where I want when I’m out of high school? What do I have to learn now to work where I want when I’m out of high school? And what do I have to learn now to know what I want to do when I’m out of high school? The answer to those questions provides students with the annual transition goals. And those accumulate over the school years and help students get closer to what their post-secondary goals are. It’s the answers to those more short-term questions that will build the annual transition goals that will provide students the information to help refine their post-secondary goals.

Student Participation Skills

teacher helping student

Research Shows

Students who have self-determination and self-advocacy skills experience positive post-school outcomes in the areas of employment and education. (Test, 2012a)

A student can be a more active participant in secondary transition planning and the overall IEP process if he or she has self-determination —a combination of skills and knowledge that help a student make decisions and plan for the future. Self-determination includes decision-making, self-regulation, goal setting, problem-solving, and self-advocacy. For a student with a disability, it is important for him to understand how his disability might affect his academic performance, relationships, community involvement, employment, and the need for supports. To participate fully in the IEP transition planning process a student must have the ability to speak up for himself, an ability often referred to as self-advocacy. By including students in the transition planning process, educators help them to:

  • Become more actively involved in decision making about their lives
  • Increase their likelihood of staying in school
  • Learn to set goals and achieve them
  • Become more independent

David Test and Jim Martin discuss the importance of self-determination and self-advocacy.

David W. Test

David W. Test, PhD University of North Carolina at Charlotte Co-Project Director, National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT)

(time: 1:20)


(time: 1:50)


Transcript: David W. Test, PhD

Self-determination is really a global component that includes many different teachable skills. For instance, decision-making, problem-solving, goal-setting, and self-advocacy. Self-determination in general means helping students organize and lead their own lives. Self-advocacy is a piece of that where a student speaks up for themselves. In terms of the transition planning process, self-advocacy is often demonstrated during the IEP process where students are helping to decide what gets in their IEPs. And the first thing that drives the entire process should be what does the student want to do in terms of their post school outcomes, in terms of education, employment, and if necessary independent living. So a teacher and a student will identify those pieces, and then often students attend the IEP meeting where they may be taught to lead the IEP meeting or at least contribute in terms of letting the IEP team know what their strengths and weaknesses are and what their post school goals are.

Students with disabilities who are more self-determined do better in school and do better when they’re out of school, have better post-school outcomes, and some evidence suggests that students with better self-determination skills also do better academically when they’re in school. It’s a set of skills that we have to teach, and we teach it through providing opportunities for students to become more self-determined. Now, what self-determination actually is, that’s an interesting topic in and of itself because there’s numerous self-determination definitions. On one hand, some people believe self-determination [is] any student-directed behavior that impacts the quality of their life. To me, that’s almost too broad. I’m a strong believer that self-determination needs to focus on teaching students essential self-regulatory behaviors that they need to obtain the goals in their lives. It includes setting goals, developing plans to obtain their goals, and then using the different self-management strategies to actually make goal-attainment possible. Self-advocacy, it’s a subset of self-determination. Self-advocacy is when students will speak up for themselves. For instance, they will go to their tenth-grade algebra teacher and ask that different accommodations be provided based on what’s in their IEP. So students will know their strengths, they’ll know their limitations, they’ll know their supports, they’ll know their accommodations and ask for those at the right time, and then use their supports.

The teacher in the video below discusses how self-determination skills help students to be more-active participants in the transition process and be more independent in identifying their goals for the future and achieving them (time: 1:09).

Source: Virginia Department of Education

Transcript: Self-determination Skills

Speaker : Self-determination skills. How does that help the transition process?

Brianna : Well, it definitely helps with that whole independent…I think when my students first came in and it was…well, they were ninth graders, so four years before they were transitioning out of high school, they were definitely in the mindset that they were just waiting for people to tell them what they were going to do, and what they needed to do, where they should go, that sort of thing. So, now that they have self-determination skills, you can see that really enhancing their plans for future and how they now have the ability to do the research that it takes to figure out, you know, they say, “Okay, this is my goal. Now I know what steps to plan out, you know, I know how to reach that goal or at least how to do, find the resources that will help me to reach the goal.” And it’s more intrinsic. It’s more internal locus of control. Rather than waiting for someone to say, “Okay, now you need to go do this. Now do this,” they take control and lead the way.

Teachers and school personnel should teach self-determination and self-advocacy skills to enable students to be more active participants in the transition planning process. These skills can be taught in a variety of settings (e.g., general education classroom, resource room). Paula Kohler and Jim Martin talk about how teachers can incorporate instruction on self-determination skills into the general education classroom.

Paula Kohler, PhD

Paula Kohler, PhD Director, Career Connections Research Center Western Michigan University

(time: 1:55)


(time: 2:21)


Transcript: Paula Kohler, PhD

One’s level of self-determination is not something that’s going to happen in one year, in one class, like learning how to divide fractions, but we need to develop it across time, and we need to provide opportunities for students to apply their self-determination. Part of that is developing your self-awareness, your self-concept. You can start integrating things that build students’ self-determination, assignments that help kids understand their interest, skills, and limits. If you’re teaching writing or if you’re teaching reading or you’re teaching technology, you can focus your assignments to allow students to learn these things about themselves, while at the same time you’re focusing on the skill of writing, the understanding of reading, and then the use of technology. You can integrate math into this so that they’re starting to learn to graph then they can start graphing their own performance either in courses or around some concept that they’re investigating. People need to have certain characteristics that we develop in our kids, things like self-efficacy, the belief that what I do will influence the outcome, motivation, self-awareness. We then focused on knowledge, so the knowledge that people need to have to be self-determined that might be understanding my disability, it might be knowing the accommodations that I need in certain settings, might be knowledge of my rights and my responsibilities, and then the skills that we could teach students. So we can teach decision-making, we can teach goal-setting, we can teach self-advocacy.

Fortunately, so much of what can be done for especially transition education and teaching basic self-determination skills can be taught within a general education framework. Whether it’s a writing assignment or a homework assignment, all of those are quite amenable to teaching goal-attainment or very basic self-determination or transition-education concepts. And it’s a fairly simple process once we break down what the essential skills are that we want students to know. Then we need to just find opportunities to teach those skills. We know, for instance, that there’s academic skills that are important for success, but equally so there are non-academic skills that are important to success. And it appears that not many of those non-academic skills are really taught much in general education classes, and that’s something that we really have to focus on: teaching students to know what their strengths and limits are, for kids with disability how it impacts their persistence, that ability to keep working on a goal until you attain it. How to better interact with others, setting goals, attaining those goals, having a paid job, those are all non-academic skills that are very much associated with post-school success. On top of that, for kids with disabilities, it appears that as kids become more involved in their IEP planning, can speak up at their actual IEP meetings, and do something every week to attain their own transition goals, those components of students becoming more involved in their IEP are also really associated with better post-school outcomes. The key is, special educators working with general educators need to find the opportunity to teach those skills. And it needs to become something that’s done a teacher at a time across various content classes.

To learn more about how to teach students self-regulation techniques, including goal setting, view the following IRIS Module:

  • SOS: Helping Students Become Independent Learners

For Your Information

Check and Connect

Objective : Promote student engagement at school and with learning

Description : A comprehensive intervention that helps a student remain engaged at school. A key element of Check and Connect is the relationship between a student and a mentor (e.g., teacher, service coordinator, advocate). The mentor is trained to check on the students’ engagement (e.g., attendance, grades) while working with the school staff, parents, and community providers as appropriate to connect a student to an individualized data-based intervention that will increase participation in school activities.

  • Determine indicators of student disengagement or needs
  • Identify students at risk of disengagement
  • Pair student with a mentor
  • Organize resources for intervention
  • Get to know student, parents, teachers, and other team members
  • Use check procedures and the monitoring form
  • Implement interventions
  • Strengthen the family-school relationship
  • Monitor the student-environment fit
  • Provide mentor support and supervision
  • Evaluate the program implementation

Availability : Available at a minimal cost from the University of Minnesota Website: http://checkandconnect.umn.edu/manual/

Self-Advocacy Strategy

Objective : Prepare students to participate in IEP/ transition planning meetings

Description : A motivation and self-determination strategy that focuses on teaching a student the behaviors needed to lead an IEP/ transition planning meeting and to communicate his or her needs during the meeting. The Self-Advocacy Strategy promotes mastery of five steps, and is explicitly taught using the mnemonic IPLAN that helps students remember the steps.

  • I nventory your strengths, areas to improve or learn, goals, and choices for learning or accommodations
  • P rovide your inventory information
  • L isten and Respond
  • A sk questions
  • N ame your goals

Availability : Available at a minimal cost from Edge Enterprises: http://www.edgeenterprisesinc.com/product/self-advocacy-strategy-enhancing-student-motivation-and-self-determination/

Self-Directed IEP

Objective : Enable students to attain self-determination skills necessary to be more active participants in their IEP and transition planning meetings

Description : A lesson package that teaches students to lead and manage their own IEP meetings. It consists of eleven 45-minute sequential lessons that can be taught in a general education classroom, resource room, study-skills class, or other setting.

  • Begin meeting by stating the purpose
  • Introduce everyone
  • Review past goals and preferences
  • Ask for others’ feedback
  • State your school and transition goals
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand
  • Deal with differences in opinion
  • State the support you will need to reach your goals
  • Summarize your current goals
  • Close meeting by thanking everyone
  • Work on IEP goals all year

Martin, J. E., Marshall, L. H., Maxson, L. M., & Jerman, P. L. (1996)

Whose Future Is It Anyway?

Objective : Help students gain self-determination skills that prepare them to be active participants in IEP/ transition planning meetings

Description : In this curriculum, the teacher serves as a facilitator to provide support to the student, as an instructor to help the student acquire the necessary skills and knowledge about the IEP /transition planning process, and as an advocate for the student. This lesson package is divided into six sections that contain thirty-six lessons and can be used one-on-one with a student or in a group.

  • Getting to know you
  • Making decisions
  • How to get what you need
  • Goals, objectives, and the future
  • Communicating
  • Thank you, Honorable Chairperson

Availability : Available at no cost from the Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment at the University of Oklahoma.

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  • 7 important steps in the decision makin ...

7 important steps in the decision making process

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshot

The decision making process is a method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and making a final choice with the goal of making the best decision possible. In this article, we detail the step-by-step process on how to make a good decision and explain different decision making methodologies.

We make decisions every day. Take the bus to work or call a car? Chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Whole milk or two percent?

There's an entire process that goes into making those tiny decisions, and while these are simple, easy choices, how do we end up making more challenging decisions? 

At work, decisions aren't as simple as choosing what kind of milk you want in your latte in the morning. That’s why understanding the decision making process is so important. 

What is the decision making process?

The decision making process is the method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and, ultimately, making a final choice. 

Decision-making tools for agile businesses

In this ebook, learn how to equip employees to make better decisions—so your business can pivot, adapt, and tackle challenges more effectively than your competition.

Make good choices, fast: How decision-making processes can help businesses stay agile ebook banner image

The 7 steps of the decision making process

Step 1: identify the decision that needs to be made.

When you're identifying the decision, ask yourself a few questions: 

What is the problem that needs to be solved?

What is the goal you plan to achieve by implementing this decision?

How will you measure success?

These questions are all common goal setting techniques that will ultimately help you come up with possible solutions. When the problem is clearly defined, you then have more information to come up with the best decision to solve the problem.

Step 2: Gather relevant information

​Gathering information related to the decision being made is an important step to making an informed decision. Does your team have any historical data as it relates to this issue? Has anybody attempted to solve this problem before?

It's also important to look for information outside of your team or company. Effective decision making requires information from many different sources. Find external resources, whether it’s doing market research, working with a consultant, or talking with colleagues at a different company who have relevant experience. Gathering information helps your team identify different solutions to your problem.

Step 3: Identify alternative solutions

This step requires you to look for many different solutions for the problem at hand. Finding more than one possible alternative is important when it comes to business decision-making, because different stakeholders may have different needs depending on their role. For example, if a company is looking for a work management tool, the design team may have different needs than a development team. Choosing only one solution right off the bat might not be the right course of action. 

Step 4: Weigh the evidence

This is when you take all of the different solutions you’ve come up with and analyze how they would address your initial problem. Your team begins identifying the pros and cons of each option, and eliminating alternatives from those choices.

There are a few common ways your team can analyze and weigh the evidence of options:

Pros and cons list

SWOT analysis

Decision matrix

Step 5: Choose among the alternatives

The next step is to make your final decision. Consider all of the information you've collected and how this decision may affect each stakeholder. 

Sometimes the right decision is not one of the alternatives, but a blend of a few different alternatives. Effective decision-making involves creative problem solving and thinking out of the box, so don't limit you or your teams to clear-cut options.

One of the key values at Asana is to reject false tradeoffs. Choosing just one decision can mean losing benefits in others. If you can, try and find options that go beyond just the alternatives presented.

Step 6: Take action

Once the final decision maker gives the green light, it's time to put the solution into action. Take the time to create an implementation plan so that your team is on the same page for next steps. Then it’s time to put your plan into action and monitor progress to determine whether or not this decision was a good one. 

Step 7: Review your decision and its impact (both good and bad)

Once you’ve made a decision, you can monitor the success metrics you outlined in step 1. This is how you determine whether or not this solution meets your team's criteria of success.

Here are a few questions to consider when reviewing your decision:

Did it solve the problem your team identified in step 1? 

Did this decision impact your team in a positive or negative way?

Which stakeholders benefited from this decision? Which stakeholders were impacted negatively?

If this solution was not the best alternative, your team might benefit from using an iterative form of project management. This enables your team to quickly adapt to changes, and make the best decisions with the resources they have. 

Types of decision making models

While most decision making models revolve around the same seven steps, here are a few different methodologies to help you make a good decision.

​Rational decision making models

This type of decision making model is the most common type that you'll see. It's logical and sequential. The seven steps listed above are an example of the rational decision making model. 

When your decision has a big impact on your team and you need to maximize outcomes, this is the type of decision making process you should use. It requires you to consider a wide range of viewpoints with little bias so you can make the best decision possible. 

Intuitive decision making models

This type of decision making model is dictated not by information or data, but by gut instincts. This form of decision making requires previous experience and pattern recognition to form strong instincts.

This type of decision making is often made by decision makers who have a lot of experience with similar kinds of problems. They have already had proven success with the solution they're looking to implement. 

Creative decision making model

The creative decision making model involves collecting information and insights about a problem and coming up with potential ideas for a solution, similar to the rational decision making model. 

The difference here is that instead of identifying the pros and cons of each alternative, the decision maker enters a period in which they try not to actively think about the solution at all. The goal is to have their subconscious take over and lead them to the right decision, similar to the intuitive decision making model. 

This situation is best used in an iterative process so that teams can test their solutions and adapt as things change.

Track key decisions with a work management tool

Tracking key decisions can be challenging when not documented correctly. Learn more about how a work management tool like Asana can help your team track key decisions, collaborate with teammates, and stay on top of progress all in one place.

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How to optimize your company’s tech stack, according to research

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The secrets of high-performing marketing leaders

Book cover

Decision Making by Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities pp 3–20 Cite as

Decision Making and Self-Determination

  • Michael L. Wehmeyer 5  
  • First Online: 24 November 2021

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Part of the Positive Psychology and Disability Series book series (POPD)

The decision-making process does not exist in a vacuum, either theoretically or practically. This process may incorporate multiple skills and abilities, such as problem-solving, goal-setting, or choice-making skills, and can integrate interests and values. Also, the decision-making process is influenced by contexts and the types of decisions being made. The purpose of this chapter is to situate decision making into the broader psychological construct of self-determination. Doing so enables us to better understand the development of decision-making skills and to understand how elements that may be incorporated into the decision-making process, such as problem-solving, goal setting and attainment, interests and preference, and motivation, interact and influence decisions. Further, it enables us to understand how decision making contributes to broader life outcomes, such as enhanced self-determination and autonomy.

  • Self-determination
  • Causal agency
  • Causal action
  • Agentic action
  • Self-determined decision making

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Wehmeyer, M.L. (2021). Decision Making and Self-Determination. In: Khemka, I., Hickson, L. (eds) Decision Making by Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Positive Psychology and Disability Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74675-9_1

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1.5 Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling

Learning objectives.

  • Know the dimensions of the planning-organizing-leading-controlling (P-O-L-C) framework.
  • Know the general inputs into each P-O-L-C dimension.

A manager’s primary challenge is to solve problems creatively. While drawing from a variety of academic disciplines, and to help managers respond to the challenge of creative problem solving, principles of management have long been categorized into the four major functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling (the P-O-L-C framework). The four functions, summarized in the P-O-L-C figure, are actually highly integrated when carried out in the day-to-day realities of running an organization. Therefore, you should not get caught up in trying to analyze and understand a complete, clear rationale for categorizing skills and practices that compose the whole of the P-O-L-C framework.

It is important to note that this framework is not without criticism. Specifically, these criticisms stem from the observation that the P-O-L-C functions might be ideal but that they do not accurately depict the day-to-day actions of actual managers (Mintzberg, 1973; Lamond, 2004). The typical day in the life of a manager at any level can be fragmented and hectic, with the constant threat of having priorities dictated by the law of the trivial many and important few (i.e., the 80/20 rule). However, the general conclusion seems to be that the P-O-L-C functions of management still provide a very useful way of classifying the activities managers engage in as they attempt to achieve organizational goals (Lamond, 2004).

Figure 1.7 The P-O-L-C Framework


Planning is the function of management that involves setting objectives and determining a course of action for achieving those objectives. Planning requires that managers be aware of environmental conditions facing their organization and forecast future conditions. It also requires that managers be good decision makers.

Planning is a process consisting of several steps. The process begins with environmental scanning which simply means that planners must be aware of the critical contingencies facing their organization in terms of economic conditions, their competitors, and their customers. Planners must then attempt to forecast future conditions. These forecasts form the basis for planning.

Planners must establish objectives, which are statements of what needs to be achieved and when. Planners must then identify alternative courses of action for achieving objectives. After evaluating the various alternatives, planners must make decisions about the best courses of action for achieving objectives. They must then formulate necessary steps and ensure effective implementation of plans. Finally, planners must constantly evaluate the success of their plans and take corrective action when necessary.

There are many different types of plans and planning.

Strategic planning involves analyzing competitive opportunities and threats, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and then determining how to position the organization to compete effectively in their environment. Strategic planning has a long time frame, often three years or more. Strategic planning generally includes the entire organization and includes formulation of objectives. Strategic planning is often based on the organization’s mission, which is its fundamental reason for existence. An organization’s top management most often conducts strategic planning.

Tactical planning is intermediate-range (one to three years) planning that is designed to develop relatively concrete and specific means to implement the strategic plan. Middle-level managers often engage in tactical planning.

Operational planning generally assumes the existence of organization-wide or subunit goals and objectives and specifies ways to achieve them. Operational planning is short-range (less than a year) planning that is designed to develop specific action steps that support the strategic and tactical plans.

Organizing is the function of management that involves developing an organizational structure and allocating human resources to ensure the accomplishment of objectives. The structure of the organization is the framework within which effort is coordinated. The structure is usually represented by an organization chart, which provides a graphic representation of the chain of command within an organization. Decisions made about the structure of an organization are generally referred to as organizational design decisions.

Organizing also involves the design of individual jobs within the organization. Decisions must be made about the duties and responsibilities of individual jobs, as well as the manner in which the duties should be carried out. Decisions made about the nature of jobs within the organization are generally called “job design” decisions.

Organizing at the level of the organization involves deciding how best to departmentalize, or cluster, jobs into departments to coordinate effort effectively. There are many different ways to departmentalize, including organizing by function, product, geography, or customer. Many larger organizations use multiple methods of departmentalization.

Organizing at the level of a particular job involves how best to design individual jobs to most effectively use human resources. Traditionally, job design was based on principles of division of labor and specialization, which assumed that the more narrow the job content, the more proficient the individual performing the job could become. However, experience has shown that it is possible for jobs to become too narrow and specialized. For example, how would you like to screw lids on jars one day after another, as you might have done many decades ago if you worked in company that made and sold jellies and jams? When this happens, negative outcomes result, including decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment, increased absenteeism, and turnover.

Recently, many organizations have attempted to strike a balance between the need for worker specialization and the need for workers to have jobs that entail variety and autonomy. Many jobs are now designed based on such principles as empowerment, job enrichment and teamwork . For example, HUI Manufacturing, a custom sheet metal fabricator, has done away with traditional “departments” to focus on listening and responding to customer needs. From company-wide meetings to team huddles, HUI employees know and understand their customers and how HUI might service them best (Huimfg, 2008).

Leading involves the social and informal sources of influence that you use to inspire action taken by others. If managers are effective leaders, their subordinates will be enthusiastic about exerting effort to attain organizational objectives.

The behavioral sciences have made many contributions to understanding this function of management. Personality research and studies of job attitudes provide important information as to how managers can most effectively lead subordinates. For example, this research tells us that to become effective at leading, managers must first understand their subordinates’ personalities, values, attitudes, and emotions.

Studies of motivation and motivation theory provide important information about the ways in which workers can be energized to put forth productive effort. Studies of communication provide direction as to how managers can effectively and persuasively communicate. Studies of leadership and leadership style provide information regarding questions, such as, “What makes a manager a good leader?” and “In what situations are certain leadership styles most appropriate and effective?”


Quality control ensures that the organization delivers on its promises.

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center – Maize seed quality control at small seed company Bidasem – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.


Controlling involves ensuring that performance does not deviate from standards. Controlling consists of three steps, which include (1) establishing performance standards, (2) comparing actual performance against standards, and (3) taking corrective action when necessary. Performance standards are often stated in monetary terms such as revenue, costs, or profits but may also be stated in other terms, such as units produced, number of defective products, or levels of quality or customer service.

The measurement of performance can be done in several ways, depending on the performance standards, including financial statements, sales reports, production results, customer satisfaction, and formal performance appraisals. Managers at all levels engage in the managerial function of controlling to some degree.

The managerial function of controlling should not be confused with control in the behavioral or manipulative sense. This function does not imply that managers should attempt to control or to manipulate the personalities, values, attitudes, or emotions of their subordinates. Instead, this function of management concerns the manager’s role in taking necessary actions to ensure that the work-related activities of subordinates are consistent with and contributing toward the accomplishment of organizational and departmental objectives.

Effective controlling requires the existence of plans, since planning provides the necessary performance standards or objectives. Controlling also requires a clear understanding of where responsibility for deviations from standards lies. Two traditional control techniques are budget and performance audits. An audit involves an examination and verification of records and supporting documents. A budget audit provides information about where the organization is with respect to what was planned or budgeted for, whereas a performance audit might try to determine whether the figures reported are a reflection of actual performance. Although controlling is often thought of in terms of financial criteria, managers must also control production and operations processes, procedures for delivery of services, compliance with company policies, and many other activities within the organization.

The management functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling are widely considered to be the best means of describing the manager’s job, as well as the best way to classify accumulated knowledge about the study of management. Although there have been tremendous changes in the environment faced by managers and the tools used by managers to perform their roles, managers still perform these essential functions.

Key Takeaway

The principles of management can be distilled down to four critical functions. These functions are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. This P-O-L-C framework provides useful guidance into what the ideal job of a manager should look like.

  • What are the management functions that comprise the P-O-L-C framework?
  • Are there any criticisms of this framework?
  • What function does planning serve?
  • What function does organizing serve?
  • What function does leading serve?
  • What function does controlling serve?

Huimfg.com, http://www.huimfg.com/abouthui-yourteams.aspx (accessed October 15, 2008).

Lamond, D, “A Matter of Style: Reconciling Henri and Henry,” Management Decision 42, no. 2 (2004): 330–56.

Mintzberg, H. The Nature of Managerial Work (New York: Harper & Row, 1973); D. Lamond, “A Matter of Style: Reconciling Henri and Henry,” Management Decision 42 , no. 2 (2004): 330–56.

Principles of Management Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Planning And Decision Making: Characteristics, Importance, Elements, Limitations

In everyday life, all of us make and execute certain plans to achieve our goals. For example, before going on a trip, we make a plan i.e. where and when to go, how to reach the destination, the duration of the trip, where to stay and luggage to carry, etc. All these tasks require creating an effective plan which consists of certain activities for the successful execution of a trip. Process of making such plans to achieve some goal or objective is called “Planning . “ In other terms, in order to execute activities in future, prior forethought is necessary and this forethought comes under the concept of “planning.”

From an organizational point of view, planning is defined as “process by which an organization identifies its short-term and long-term goals, design, and implement strategies to achieve them.” One of the important aspects of planning is to allocate resources and manpower in an organization.

The planning function was put forth by Henri Fayol, known for his Management Theories i.e. 14 principles of management and 5 basic functions of management.

Planning is one of the six management functions/processes of Henri and the management process starts with planning function in any organization.

For example, manpower planning or human resource planning is a crucial planning process which ensures the right kind of people at the right place, and at the right time to fulfil the right type of jobs in the organizations. This process includes different activities in the planning process to meet organizational goals.

The Purpose Of Planning

1. achievement of goals, 2. cost-effective decision-making, 3. forecasting, 4. productive utilisation of available resources, 5. facilitate other management functions, 6. risk-management, characteristics/nature of planning, 1. basic and important management function.

Planning is not only the base for the rest of the management functions i.e. staffing, directing, organizing, and controlling, but it is also one of the most crucial processes for any organization to meet goals. All the above management functions involve effective planning as without proper planning no function can be performed well. Therefore, the results might be ambiguous.

2. Goal-Oriented

Planning is focused on defining organizational goals or objectives, identifying different action plans, deciding and implementing the best action plan to achieve goals.

3. Omnipresent

Planning is involved at all the levels i.e. top, middle, and bottom. The effective functioning of different departments of organizations like sales, purchase, IT, HR, finance among others depends on planning their systems, optimum use of resources, etc. The scope may vary in different functions.

4. Continuous Process

Planning is a continuous process in an organization which involves making plans for a particular time period i.e. monthly or quarterly, half-yearly, yearly, etc. New plans are initiated after the previous plans lapse to fulfil organizational goals.

5. Demands Strong Analytical Skills

Planning requires robust analytical abilities i.e. analyzing information, problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, etc. at each level and function.

6. Forecast

Planning process demands forecasting future needs, i.e. analyzing and detecting future requirements, challenges in accomplishing organizational goals, etc.

Importance Of Planning

1. increase in efficiency.

Planning helps in increasing efficiency by aiming at cost-reduction and generating maximum output. It controls the wastage of available resources and their duplicity.

2. Minimize Risks

Risk-management is an important aspect of any organization, especially in forecasting. Planning predicts various risks related to business and further helps in generating action plans to control and reduce these risks. So, with effective planning, organizations prepare themselves for any future uncertainty.

3. Smooth Coordination

Planning ensures effective coordination at different levels, between various departments or functions. Plans are formulated at each level i.e. top, middle, and bottom as well as in different departments. Effective execution of these plans requires proper coordination which is possible through effective planning. Similarly, different plans like short-, mid-, and long-term plans require coordination to achieve organizational goals where planning plays an important role.

4. Optimum Utilization Of Available Resources

An organization needs different resources like funds, manpower, physical assets to disburse activities of different departments. These resources are limited. So, it’s necessary to utilize and organize them efficiently to produce maximum output. Planning helps in organizing these resources carefully.

5. Smooth Supervision And Direction

Planning paves a path for supervising subordinates, providing right instructions, and rendering top-notch guidance. It aims to provide help, direction for performing various tasks, and methods for carrying out different activities.

6. Facilitates Control

Performance of staff can be controlled or improved by devising plans for improvement in performance according to the variance in performance plans and actual performance at work. Without planning, this process of control could not be smooth.

7. Staff Motivation

Attractive monetary and non-monetary benefits can be designed through proper planning which is helpful in boosting the morale of the staff. This leads to high motivation among staff and reduces turnovers of quality staff.

8. Trouble-Free Decision-Making

Making effective and right decisions in an organization is essential to achieve goals. A supervisor has to make different plans and strategies for the smooth functioning of the department and to decide the most appropriate plan. So, planning helps in smooth decision-making in an organization.

9. Goal-Oriented

Proper planning ensures that the best strategies and decisions are made to fulfil organizational goals. Different plans made at different levels are aimed at achieving individual, departmental, and organizational goals.

10. Encouraging Creativity And Innovative Ideas

Planning demands thinking and implementing the best ideas or strategies for organizational success. Both supervisors and subordinates are encouraged to exploit their creative skills and present their innovative plans.

Elements/Components Of Planning

The planning process revolves around different aspects as shown in the diagram below:

Mission or purpose is the base of planning in any organization. The mission of an organization specifies its reason for existence, customers, products or services, service locations, etc. and mostly in written form. It acts as a direction towards achieving organizational goals. Mission also includes an organization’s values and belief system. It also clears the organization’s viewpoint on staff. Organizational goals are defined based on the mission statement of an organization.

The ultimate aim of the functioning of each department in an organization is to achieve organizational goals and objectives. Planning also requires setting of goals to make a plan further. Goals can be individual or team based. For example:

  • Individual goal of Hiring Manager in the HR department: To recruit top talent in the organization in given time-frame.
  • Team goal of Human Resource Department: To ensure the development of employees by fulfilling an individual’s personal, professional needs and by meeting organizational goals.

Goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Short-term goals can be for less than a year and long-term goals are defined for a time-period of more than a year.

3. Policies

Planning is also based on defined policies of an organization. Policies are a set of guidelines to accomplish any task effectively and also includes procedure and actions. These are defined as a set of plans to handle different situations. Different policies like an insurance policy, travel policy, HR policies are designed to facilitate smooth functioning in any organization. Similarly, if an organization policy says that the minimum annual salary increment of staff will be 10% of the salary then increment can’t be less than 10%. So, policies act as a decision-making element as well.

Planning is connected to a process, and it is an important element of planning. A process defines guidelines to execute different activities, i.e. action plan. In any planning activity, the process is practical. A process like planning is aimed at achieving something. These are step-by-step inter-related activities to be performed and require different resources like money, manpower, machinery, etc. to produce the desired output. For example, in a manufacturing company, different processes are present like production process, quality control and quality assurance process, maintenance process etc.

Plans that are made for estimating income and expenses for a specific period are defined as “budget.” Budget is a set of financial plans which are made for a specific period and reviewed at regular intervals. Whether it is an organization or a family or an individual; all make budget plans to utilize their financial resources efficiently. For example, in an organization business budget is present that includes fixed and variable costs, expected sales, profits, etc.

A well-designed budget also helps in planning during a financial crisis.

6. Projects

Project in an organization refers to the set of inter-related activities which are planned to fulfil certain goals in a specific time period at a given cost using limited resources. Project planning includes defining goals, project schedule, resources, budget, project quality, manpower, and risk management. So, this element of planning consists of other planning elements as well. For example, software companies work on different projects for their clients.

7. Strategies

Strategies are a set of plans and actions that are defined to meet certain results. Proper planning and implementation of strategies are essential for organizational success and to meet certain goals.

Types Of Planning

Planning is mainly of four types i.e. Operational, Strategic, Tactical, and Contingency.

a) Operational Planning

Operational plan or work plan refers to the planning process aimed at achieving departmental and organizational goals. It is related to the day-to-day functioning of organizations. These plans clear planned activities of departments for the near future in detail. The operational plan provides answers of: -What goals have to be achieved and what strategies to use?

-Who will be responsible for different activities?

-What is the time limit to complete activities?-

-How much budget in terms of financial resources is required and available to complete activities?

For example, the goal of the marketing team of an engineering college is to increase the number of students by increasing marketing promotional activities. Marketing operational plan is explained in the diagram below:

Operational planning is of two types i.e. single use plans or ongoing plans. Single-use plans are developed for one-time activities or tasks like sales or marketing event or seminar. Ongoing plans have a defined set of policies, rules, and procedures to achieve goals and are continued for the future as well, like a performance management system for employees.

b) Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is defined as the strategies made by management to achieve its objectives. It also includes defining directions and allocating resources for execution. Strategic planning is meant for long-term business decisions. A strategic plan starts with the vision and the mission statement of an organization.

The process of strategic planning includes vision clarity, collecting and analyzing information, strategy formulation, and implementation of strategy, evaluating, and controlling. For example, the strategic plan of an organization which aims to reduce the current turnover rate is explained in the below diagram:

Models of Strategic Planning

There are five models of strategic planning which represents its designs or blueprints. Selection of the right model depends on an organization’s goals, mission, and vision. These models are:

1. The basic model of strategic planning

These are used by new organizations having less experience in using strategic business planning. It is mainly useful for small-scale organizations and business. This planning includes defining mission, goals, identifying strategies, creating action plans, evaluation etc.

2. Goal-oriented model

This one is an extended version of the basic strategic planning model and is used by established organizations which aim at introducing an improved strategic process. The process of this model includes a SWOT analysis (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat), identifying goals and mission, making strategies, action plans, operational plans, budget allocation, and evaluation on yearly basis.

3. Scenario-based model

This model is more of a technical model. It is used by organizations to face different challenges or scenarios which arise due to external factors or environmental change. Change can be demographic or in the form of rules and regulations. The process includes identifying problem areas in business and different scenarios- both best and worst, designing suggestions for an action plan of business in different scenarios, selecting common strategies to handle changes, and identifying common issues through which business is being affected or will be affected in the near future.

4. Alignment model

This model is useful in making a balance between an organization’s mission and available resources as well as aligning resources to the mission. It helps in identifying any gaps in planning i.e. gap between actual results and expected results. Organizations facing huge efficiencies prefer this strategic planning model to rectify issues.

The process includes identifying an organization’s mission, resources, process, etc, inspecting which areas are working in the right direction and which areas need improvement. It also requires finding ways of improvement and incorporating these improvements in the form of strategies in the plan.

5. Organic model

This strategic model is the self-organizing model which is based more on the value system and less on the process. The process includes clearing values and vision to stakeholders in a meeting; an action plan is established by each person as per values and vision, everyone clears results of actions and update values, vision accordingly.

c) Tactical Planning

This type of planning is for short duration i.e. plans and actions by functions for short-term and aims at contributing to the strategic plan of an organization. Tactical planning is based on today’s need and is a bit more detailed. This planning needs to be flexible to meet unexpected issues which are not predefined. It answers what to do to achieve the strategic objective rather than how-to-do as in case of operational plans. Below is an example of tactic planning by HR Hiring Manager to achieve the goal of hiring twenty sales representatives in the first quarter:

d) Contingency Planning

These type of plans are need-based and are formulated when the need for change arises or during the occurrence of any unexpected circumstance. It is also called alternate plans as it comes under picture once other plans fail to produce desired results. The process includes formulating policy, identifying critical factors of a business, risk analysis, preventive control measures, developing recovery strategies, and testing, training, monitoring plan.

An example of contingency planning can be seen in the diagram below which is a crisis situation of organization i.e. what-if HR Head, who is taking care of all HR gamut of organization, left suddenly. To handle such unexpected situations, contingency plans are made. Like in the below diagram, an organization has formulated a plan i.e. performance development program to train the rest of the HR staff to work at the capacity of HR Head in such crisis situations.

Planning Process

The planning process is defined as the steps to define goals and making the best action plans to achieve it.

Steps In Planning Process

1. Defining goal or objective

Goal setting is the first and important step in the planning process. Goals are defined at the organizational, department, and individual level and are meant to be achieved in future in a specific time period. A goal can be short-term, mid-term or long-term. Plans are devised which are aimed at achieving these predefined goals. Goals specify what to achieve by defined rules, policies, process, resources, strategies, etc.

2. Collecting information

Gathering information like facts and figures required to achieve goals is a necessary part of planning. Target audience, circumstances, market information, competitor’s strategy, etc. are required to make a right and effective plan.

3. Analyzing information

The next step in the planning process is interpreting information as per goals. Analyzing information includes organizing collected information as per importance, identifying accuracy and relevancy of information from different sources, its unique features, sources and reliability for the organization.

4. Making a plan

Once relevant information is collected and analyzed, the next step is to formulate a plan to achieve defined goals; the plan includes identifying different activities, required resources, timelines, etc. to implement a plan.

5. Implement the plan

Implementing a plan refers to allocate defined activities, resources, time guidelines to individuals. In this step, strategies and plans are converted into actions to achieve goals. Implementation of plans also requires allocation of responsibility in the team which is responsible for accomplishing the plan.

6. Monitor the plan

Once a plan is implemented, it’s necessary to evaluate and monitor its effectiveness and impact according to desired goals.

The planning process can be understood further in below example of an organization plan to formulate competitive compensation and benefits structure or plan for employees.

Planning Limitations

Although planning has lots of advantages for any organization aiming to achieve its goals; it also has certain constraints or limitations. Few of them are:

1. Costly process

Planning requires much investment as lots of aspects, i.e. funds, resources, manpower etc, are included in the process of planning. Due to limited capital or funds in small and medium organizations, it is quite challenging to have comprehensive plans. It is hard to allocate funds for information gathering, predicting future needs, developing strategies, and hiring specialists. If a plan is more detailed, then the cost is high too.

2. Time-consuming task

The planning process is a bit time-consuming and, sometimes, there is a delay in decision-making especially in immediate decisions. Due to this, the planning process can’t be detailed in some organizations.

3. Fewer employee initiatives

Planning demands work under predefined policies and rigid processes. This, in turn, marks an impact on initiatives and innovative ideas from the employees. Complexity arises in managerial work as well.

4. Change resistance

The planning process is backed by a change in methods, policies, rules, etc. Employees resist this change due to insecurity, the uncertainty of new plans’ success, and getting used to the current plan. This fails the new plan.

5. Budget constraints

The planning process requires an appropriate or fixed financial budget for future actions. An investment in purchasing fixed assets by organizations puts a constraint on the budget required for implementing the planning process.

6. Scope of inaccuracy

Planning cannot be 100% accurate and reliable as it is based on forecasting and the future is uncertain, data and information used in making plans may not be accurate, vague decisions made by incompetent planner etc. There is no surety of risks in future.

Apart from these, there are few other external factors like change in government policies i.e. tax policy, import-export policy etc. The trade-unions may also hinder a smooth planning process.


Decision-making is defined as the process by which different possible solutions or alternatives are identified and the most feasible solution or course of action is finalized. It is an integral part of planning. Decision-making results in selecting the right action among different available options.

It is also one of the important management functions and effective decision-making leads to fulfilling expected goals by sorting out different problems related to such decisions. Decision-making is also a time-bound process and eliminates confusions to reach a conclusion. It has a minimum of two or more alternatives or solutions to a problem so that the best can be decided. If only one alternative is available, then there is no requirement of decision-making.

Relation Between Planning And Decision-Making

Both planning and decision-making are connected to each other. These are the most important aspects of management functions. Planning requires a series of decisions to be incorporated in advance. The foundation of planning is decision-making. The role of a planner demands good decision-making abilities also as the planner has to take a lot of decisions simultaneously. So, decision-making is an important task in planning. Simultaneous and a number of decisions make a plan. In the absence of decision-making, it’s not possible to answer what, how, when, and who is planning. To execute planned activities, decision-making is compulsory.

So, planning has an important role to play in decision-making.

Characteristics of Decision-Making

Different characteristics of decision-making are mentioned below:

1. Process-oriented

Decision-making consists of a process to choose the best solution to a problem among available alternatives. The process includes identifying and analyzing problems, collecting different facts and figures, finding different solutions, and, finally, narrowing down and implementing the best one to meet organizational goals.

2. Demands creativity and Intellectual mind

Decision-making process requires creativity and logical thinking. It demands a lot of mental exercise and other components, i.e. education, experience level, intelligence, etc.

3. Demonstrates commitment

Decision-making process ensures better results based on the decisions made. So, it indicates the commitment of desired results. It requires joint efforts of the team.

4. Ensures the best solution

Decision-making also provides the best solution to any problem as the best solution is decided after evaluating different available alternatives.

5. Impacts of decision-making

Decision-making can be either positive or negative. A positive or right decision can bring positive results and negative or wrong decisions can bring negative results.

6. Decision-making is a final process

After disbursing different activities and tasks, decision-making takes place to get the results of the work done. It is the end result of discussions, comparisons, etc.

7. An ongoing and changing process

Organizations take decisions on a regular basis; so, decision-making is a continuous process. Every decision consists of separate situations that make decision-making a changing process.

Decision-Making Process

There are different steps in effective decision-making process;

a. Situation analysis and information gathering

The first step of the decision-making process is analyzing any situation, defining a problem, collecting relevant information, and identifying goals. This step includes collecting data and information to identify a real issue or problem. Problem identification is necessary for furthering the decision-making process. Once the problem is identified, an effective solution is determined. Problems are solved as per priority. After the solution is improvised, an action plan is designed to achieve the solution.

b. Plan and make alternatives

After collecting information, the next step is to develop different action plans or an alternative course of action. It requires imagination skills of a decision maker. Sometimes, additional information is also required to define better alternatives.

c. Evaluating and selecting the best alternative

This step in the decision-making process not only includes the analysis of different alternatives available or solutions but also an examination of each one of them based on results they are going to produce. The actual results of these solutions are not known as it’s based on performance in the future. So, it comes with uncertainty. It also includes choosing the best solution to achieve objectives. Different alternatives or solutions are judged based on different criteria, i.e. risk involvement, the least effort, the least timing based on the urgency of the situation, limited resources etc.

d. Implementing and evaluating decisions

After deciding the best solution to address a problem, the next step is to make and implement plans. This requires getting and allocating resources, budgets, time frame, etc. Once made, decisions are evaluated to know the progress by preparing progress reports.

Evaluating and monitoring decisions will clear different aspects, i.e. if everything is going as per the plan, different internal and external factors influencing decisions, the performance of subordinates as expected etc.

Example of the decision-making process is shown in the below visual presentation to solve the problem of high employee turnover in an organization;

Factors Affecting Decision-Making

1. timelines.

The quality of decisions depends on how much time has been devoted to making decisions. Most of the time decision-makers have to take decisions in a limited time frame as instructed by the management. Due to the time limit, decision-makers are not able to collect all the necessary information that influences decisions and are, also, not able to look for more alternatives.

2. Value and beliefs of decision-makers

In addition, the quality of decisions also depends upon the value and belief system of the decision-makers. Anyone’s reaction to a particular situation is more likely to depend on the individual’s values, likes and dislikes, thoughts, and beliefs. It is also a behavioural aspect of the decision-makers and reflects in their decisions related to goals, strategy-making activities. So, value-based decisions help in prioritizing tasks and making goals, identifying different solutions to problems, and finalizing the best solution or alternative.

3. Policies of organization

Decisions are affected by the policies of an organization. Decisions taken have to be in the boundary or within the limits of these policies. Decisions which violate policies are not considered for implementation. Though there is a scope to make changes in policies as per decision, most of the time decisions should be at par with the policy guidelines. However, a change in policy is a time-consuming task and requires lots of things to be considered before any change. Comparatively, a change in proposed decisions is much easier.

4. Other factors like budget, manpower, values of management also influence decision-making .

Types of decisions.

Decisions can be of different types depending upon their nature and influence:

1. Programmed and non-programmed decisions

Programmed decisions are meant for daily routine issues and for those problems that repeat frequently. A Set of tasks are defined to handle such problems or issues and are mostly initiated by the entry-level decision-makers.

For example, HR department issues like handling grievances related to leaves or attendance of employees require programmed decisions. Non-programmed decisions are made for tough situations where defining different alternatives is a challenging task. These types of decisions strategically affect organizations.

For example, decisions related to expanding the operation of an organization to other countries, launching a new product, introducing performance management system for the first time to the employees are non-programmed decisions where decision-making is a challenging task and these decisions are mostly taken by management or at the top-level.

2. Routine and strategy-oriented decisions

Routine decisions are a regular activity in an organization once identified. These are quick decisions and don’t require deep thinking or analysis. These decisions are generally taken by the bottom-management staff. Different alternatives are not required in these as everyone is aware of what action to take on a daily basis.

Examples of such decisions include what reports to generate from the biometric system of attendance by the HR staff.

Decisions, in which involvement of organizational goals, resources, and policies is required, are termed as strategic decisions. Strategy-based decisions are future-related and executed by the top management. These are for the long term and are centrally focused. A large amount of investment is required to execute strategic decisions. Different alternatives or course of actions are considered and evaluated to finalize such decisions.

For example, developing a performance management system (PMS) strategy for employees demands strategic decisions. Steps involved in strategic decision-making for formulating PMS strategy starts with identifying goal which might be retaining and motivating the quality staff. Further steps involved are: developing a process for monitoring performance and formulating a comprehensive PMS plan.

3. Policy-related and operational decisions

Decisions related to policy issues are policy-related or tactical decisions. These decisions come under the preview of the top management and leave a long-term impact. For example, changing leave structure or office timings are policy-related decisions.

Operating decisions are for operational functioning and on a daily basis. Middle- and bottom-level management is responsible for such decisions. Different departments or functions of an organization like sales, IT, production, purchase, accounts, or HR take operations decisions.

For example, Diwali bonus payment to employees is a policy matter and calculation of such bonus to handover to employees is considered an operational decision.

4. Organization-based and personal decisions

Decisions, taken by an individual as office staff, are organizational decisions. For example, conducting a campus interview decision by hiring executives is an organizational decision. Wherein, personal decisions are related to an individual’s decision to meet personal commitments. These are also known as life decisions. Buying a house is a personal decision.

5. Major and minor decisions

Major decisions are those which require much time, effort, and thinking to finalize and have a long-term impact. For example, a decision regarding higher studies whether to continue in own country or to go abroad is a major decision. Minor decisions are routine decisions and don’t require much time and deep thinking. Like purchasing stationery for different departments is a minor decision.

6. Individual and group decisions

Individual decisions are taken by one person i.e. routine decisions; as the decision of making an excel sheet for attendance management to keep the attendance record is an individual decision.

Decisions which are taken by a group of people aiming to achieve a common goal are group decisions. For example, employee engagement activities demand HR staff to work as a group and take decisions for better employee engagement programs.

Importance of Decision-Making

1. optimum utilization of resources.

With the help of decision-making, all resources of organizations i.e. money, men, material, machine, market and method are used carefully and as per requirement.

2. Problem-solving approach

By decision-making, organizations can determine and face different problems in working. It not only helps in identifying problems but also solving them by making correct and fast decisions.

3. Contributes to organizational growth

As decision-making ensures optimum utilization of resources, making the right decisions to solve problems or issues helps in achieving organizational goals and overall growth.

4. Encourage initiatives and innovations

Decision-making task is performed at all levels of organization i.e. top, middle and bottom. This motivates the staff members to contribute to decisions through brainstorming or alternatives to solve the problem. Thus, it encourages innovative thoughts and ideas which, in turn, help the organization to be at a competitive place in the market.

5. Employee motivation

Good decisions help in increasing the productivity of organizations that result in more profits. Surplus profits help in increasing compensation benefits to employees which ultimately boosts their morale and keeps them motivated.

To conclude, planning is a systematic process that supports organizations to carry out all its present and future activities to achieve desired objectives. Planning, being a continuous function, works well in adverse situations too. Plans can be modified and restructured as per requirement and available information.

Decision making is also an important activity that supports the organization by reducing risks in projects with quick and better decisions.

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Excellent notes on planning and decision making i have ever seen, thank you keep posting on Management based topice with real example of companies how it is working.

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thank you for good notes on planning and decision making

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Goal Setting , Planning and Decision Making Course

BMC Training provides Goal Setting , Planning and Decision Making in Management and Leadership. There are 61 training sessions in different cities.

Goal Setting , Planning and Decision Making Course Schedule

Course description.


The course will help you understand and utilize several management methods, processes, procedures and practices on several key management techniques. The principles used are easily adapted to an organization's or individual's work assignments. This course presents a methodology of common, standard management techniques using a simple theoretical foundation. Learning is enhanced with practical activities that help develop knowledge and skills.

Businesses and organizations need to find more productive methods of planning, more appropriate goals and effective means of making decisions.  This course focuses on using productive practices allowing for effective and efficient management of work and making changes and continuous improvements in the organization.

This course will feature:

  • Techniques for creating effective work plans for individuals and teams
  • Time Management principles and practices to plan, establish priorities, set and maintain goals
  • Essential communication skills to empower improved performance
  • Interpersonal and emotional intelligence to create better team work
  • Logical and intuitive decision making and problem solving techniques

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand and develop skills necessary to set goals and complete work on time
  • Use basic planning process tools to plan work strategy
  • Utilize a variety of methods to improve decision making and problem solving
  • Understand how to delegate effectively to achieve goals and build your team
  • Develop positive interpersonal techniques for better team relationships

Current Status of Setting Goals, Planning and Decision Making

  • Course purpose, goals and objectives
  • Overview and context of organizational change and the impact on goals, planning and
  • Understanding of the current status of the organization, team and personal work
  • Review of management processes and skill areas
  • Using a planning process to set goals and get work started

Importance of Goal Setting and Planning Management

  • Integrating goals, scope, work structure and management planning
  • Identifying initial resource requirements
  • Identifying risk techniques that affect work assignments, priorities and deadlines
  • Communication that responds to: who, what where, when, how, why
  • Understanding the importance of quality planning in work assignments

Setting Priorities and Making Decisions in the Planning Process

  • Using planning to ensure task priorities are established
  • Planning for time management, scheduling and meeting deadlines
  • Improving communications and listening skills
  • Planning for delegation responsibility and authority
  • Techniques for making good decisions

Working with Your Team

  • Identifying skills required to obtain the help of others
  • The importance of group skills to achieve team success
  • The importance of interpersonal skills in making personal and team decisions
  • Empowering the team through delegation and decision making
  • The importance of effective communication in team relations

Developing Personal and Team Change Action Plans

  • Innovation and improvement for personal and team change
  • Identification of change processes and human change
  • Techniques to set personal and team change goals
  • Dealing with people who do not want change
  • Developing an action plan for personal and team change

Available Cities

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Decision Making and Problem Solving

I'm sure you've been in a situation where your decision making or problem solving ability has let you down - I know I have!

But there are tools and techniques that you can use to help make seemingly impossible decisions and solve problems no matter how complex. And being able to make decisions and solve problems with confidence is a life skill we can all use.

In fact, we all solve problems and make decisions every day of our lives – what will I wear to work? What will I cook for dinner? How will I arrange to pick up the kids? Many of these day-to-day decisions and problems are easy to solve, so you probably don’t even notice that your brain is doing anything.

And most problem solving techniques are merely an extension of what your brain naturally does when faced with these day-to-day problems. Techniques such as:

Many brainstorming variations, including the Military’s version for solving problems SWOT Analysis for making decisions and solving problems. Mind Mapping for charting a course through complex problems – also, the mind map variation “Sticky note mapping”. Preparing instructions and plans for decision making and solving problems.

Next time you face a problem, no matter how simple or complex, try one of the above techniques – I can assure you that you’ll confidently make the right decision!

These are of course only a few of the myriad of decision making and problem solving techniques available. I don’t want to go into them all – just give you a few of the basic techniques that will do the job.

But if these aren’t enough for one of your complex problems, or you’d like to try a different approach, remember that there are other methods available – decision trees, decision matrices [there’s a template for one of the these in the ToolBOX ], concept diagrams, flowcharts, system diagrams and risk assessments – just to name a few.

There’s already a lot of information on these methods on the web – so just Google It! and see what you find!

What decision making skills do YOU think are critical for success? Write a page on it and teach others… 

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A goal is not a plan

Holidays aside, it should be relatively quiet around the office this time of year. After spending so much time in the Performance Zone all year, it’s time to get back into the Learning Zone. Take a step back and ask yourself and your team, “What went well, what didn’t go as planned and what could we do better next year?” (For more about the difference between the Performance Zone and the Learning Zone, see my article What CPAs Can Learn from Beyoncé .)

Knowing where you are now and where you want to go is a start. But without having a defined plan in place—the steps you need to go to get from Point A to Point B—all you have is a dream.

Setting a goal doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a plan

Renowned venture capitalist Peter Thiel likes to ask businesses, "How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next six months?" 

Impossible, you say? When I first heard that about Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir, it upset me too. I didn’t think it was humanly possible to accomplish a 10-year goal in only six months. But then I realized why: it was because I didn’t have a real plan, one that was crystal clear in my mind.

Achieving a goal in one-twentieth of the time you originally thought it would take is not going to be easy. But if you look at your plan closely enough, you will probably find areas where you could be clearer. You will probably find areas in which you could eliminate some ambiguity, accelerate some deadlines, speed up the learning curve and squeeze out some operational inefficiency. If you don’t know exactly what you need to be doing and when, and if you don’t have time blocked in your calendar to do those things, then you might as well scratch that goal from your list—it’s not going to happen.

Goals and plans are not synonymous

A goal is an end measure. For instance, “Within two years, we want to be the leading accounting firm specializing in cost-segregation in our geographic area.” Or, “We want to be at X dollars in revenue by the end of fiscal 2019.” That’s great, but how are you going to accomplish those aspirations? What’s your plan to get there? Who is going to do what, and by when? Who’s accountable?

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are two techniques for keeping your plan on track. There are many others. The key is not only to have a big, tangible goal in mind, but to have a timetable for reaching it and to have people accountable for making sure each step of the way is kept on track.

For example, let’s say your firm’s goal is to have a successful rollout of a new client portal within the next 90 days. That’s a great goal, but not if the timing isn’t right. You wouldn’t want to roll out the portal in Q3. That’s generally not when you have a lot of client contact and it’s not relevant to the client experience. However, the rollout is a viable goal if you want to get started on January 1. That’s when you’d normally start talking to clients leading up to tax season.

So, if rolling out the client portal is the goal, then right under that line item you have to ask yourself and your team: “What does a successful rollout look like?” Does success mean a certain level of adoption among clients? Does it mean the pre-built folders are built out? Does it mean the portal has been tested six times with no defects? Everyone on your leadership team has to be on the same page about what constitutes success. Be clear.

An annual goal has to be broken out into 90-day incremental goals (my firm calls those increments “rocks”). Where do we need to be in 12 months? Where do we need to be mid-year? Where do we need to be in 90 days? Now ask yourself, “Based on where we need to be in 90 days, what are the activities that need to be done in the next three months that are going to set us up for success? What’s our scorecard? How do we know if we’re on track? What are potential roadblocks? What are the issues we’re running into and how do we get those issues solved?”

That’s the crux of planning. Taking a goal and stripping it down to its core elements—time-based activities that you’re doing on an ongoing basis, activities that are in your calendar with specific deadlines and specific owners assigned to each activity. To be clear, this process of deconstructing a goal into a specific, time-bound action plan takes time and effort. If you’re not committed to making this time investment, then it’s unlikely you’ll hit any of your goals.

Why do so many New Year’s resolutions fail (both personal and business)?

As many of you know, January is the busiest time of the year at most gyms. People make promises to themselves to get into shape as soon as their holiday gorging and slacking off is over. Guess what the emptiest month of the year is at most gyms? February. That’s when most of the newbies who weren’t properly committed to their goals stop going. For many of them, “getting in shape” is aspirational. It’s something that sounded cool at the time. It’s not a commitment or a regular habit for them. Those people didn’t have a strong enough "why."

I don’t go to the gym to look like a body builder; that’s not a very strong "why." I have young children at home. I want the energy to keep up with them and they want their dad to be strong. I want to be the man that my children think I am. That’s a very powerful "why" and that’s what keeps me committed to going to the gym consistently.

Bottom line: If you don’t have a strong "why," then the "how" isn’t going to work.

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon series, once said, “Goals are for losers; systems are for winners.” What Adams meant is that if you just set random goals, you’re not setting yourself up to win. You need to figure out a system that sets you up for success. Big difference!

James Clear, author of the new book Atomic Habits , writes extensively about how to form good habits, how to break bad habits and how to develop small behaviors that lead to huge positive results. Clear is also a big advocate of “habit stacking”—pairing a new habit with an existing one. For example: As soon as I get home from work and take off my work shoes, I immediately change into my workout clothes. It’s gotten to the point that I feel uncomfortable coming home and not putting on my gym clothes ASAP. Does putting on my gym clothes guarantee I’m heading to the gym? Nope, but it makes me feel ridiculous if I decide to bail out on my commitment.

Again, the reason why habit stacking works so well is because your current habits are already built into your brain rather than having to start completely from scratch. Once you have mastered this basic structure of habit stacking, Clear says you can begin to create larger stacks.

In order to be more productive and successful, you should be looking for someone to be accountable to. Who are you reporting to? That’s not the same as having a boss. If you’re not looking to be held accountable, that essentially means you’re not expecting to get something done. You’re already looking for an out.

For more about planning and radical transparency, see my Accounting Today article Idea Meritocracy for CPAs .

If you’re really committed to getting something done by a specific time—say, rolling out the new client portal in 90 days, or opening a new office by mid-year—then you have to burn the boats and behave as though there is no Plan B. What will you do, by when, and to whom are you accountable?

Committing to specific actions will set you up for success in 2019 and beyond.

The SEC's recently finalized rule on private fund advisors will impose new requirements.

SEC building with official seal

Plus, Bill releases financial operations platform for SMBs; and other accounting technology news and updates.

Florida Governor Rick Scott and KPMG CEO Lynn Doughtie break ground on KPMG's new training facility in Orlando

The Internal Revenue Service is leveraging artificial intelligence to detect tax evasion as it uses the extra funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to ramp up compliance efforts.


Indiana CPA Society adds five to board of directors; Eide Bailly Financial Services becomes Eide Bailly Wealth; and more news from across the profession.


Strict liabilities; thanks for all the fish; on the beach where he used to run; and other highlights of recent tax cases.



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Decision Making & Problem Solving: Management by Objectives

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Be able to connect personal objectives with those of the department and the company as a whole. Realize the importance of SMART setting of goals. Apply essential skills for goal setting, goal cascading and prioritizing. Learn basic strategies for decision making and problem solving.

After training results:

  • Participants will be able to cascade and bond goals and objectives at different levels in the company;
  • To make SMART analysis of their personal and company goals;
  • To assign and negotiate SMART goals with their subordinates;
  • Use structured approach to decision making. Use best practices for communicating decisions;
  • Look for out-of-the-box problem solving strategies.

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