Decision-Making for the Fainthearted

When I sat down at the computer to begin work on this little session with you, I was torn in a number of directions. Should I write about something interpersonal, something technical, or something from my career in the fire service? I had trouble making...

Remember, decisions are a means to an end and not an end in and unto themselves. Some people get so caught up in the glory of the mechanics of decision-making that they never get around to actually making the decision. Let me offer a though to you.
THE BEST SOLUTIONS COME TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO BECOME FAMILIAR WITH THE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES OF THEIR ORGANIZATION. This is to say that you must know the parameters of your organizational playing field. Since decisions do not come in a vacuum, you must know what your department is all about and the goals for which it is supposed to strive. You can then create solutions which are logical and acceptable within your organization.
In data analysis, you should take your clues from two places. Let me suggest that you first look at the world around. See what is going on and compare what you do with what the world suggests is proper. You must also review the hard data of the organization you work for. Or you may choose to do both. In any event, you need to know the environment wherein your decisions will be made.
You must make a conscious decision to do something. To avoid this step is to court disaster, because a decision is probably not necessary if no data exists which indicates that one has to be made. Once you have laid out the data which tells you that you must make a decision, go to work developing alternative solutions to the problem which YOU have identified.
Evaluation of solutions is the next critical step on the road to effective decision-making. Do not leap toward the first solution that comes to mind. The most obvious choice may not be the most effective or efficient means to reach the ends you desire.
Incidentally, you should decide what constitutes a good decision before you commence your search for that decision. It makes little sense to entertain alternatives that are too costly, possibly illegal or patently inappropriate for the talent of your personnel. Lay out a range of solutions and then compare them to your specifications.
Pick the one that comes closest to accomplishing what you want done. Do not stretch things out. Some of the worst decisions that I have ever made were ones that I spent to much time agonizing over. Be business-like.  Look at the problem, and after an appropriate period of study, solve the problem and move on to the next problem.
Remember to evaluate the feedback generated by any decision you make. While this is more important with non- programmed decisions, it is also good to look at your routine decisions periodically to see if your programmed solution is still appropriate.
Let me warn you that several factors are working to stymie your decision-making procedures. Decisions cannot be divorced from the people making those decisions. Be aware that these people will be making value judgments. These will be based upon their personal background and experience. You must look at who these people are, how they think and what they think about. Their personal biases can tinge their judgment and submarine your operation. Know this fact and exercise caution.
People are all different. They think differently and this may work for you or against you. Be aware of it. The use of a mission statement along with solid goals and objectives can get everyone in your department thinking along the same lines. The mechanics of what constitutes an acceptable level of risk varies from person to person. The amount of risk that a person is willing to tolerate says a lot about the types of decisions that will be made. This can lead to solid decision-making or shooting from the hip. Guard against the latter.
Remember, different people will tolerate the same risk in different ways. And the same person may react differently on consecutive days, given differing personal pressures. If I am giving you the idea that decision-making is difficult, than you have been paying attention.