How To Make Good Decisions


We all have to make multiple decisions every day, so, how do we make decisions? Can we improve the quality of our decisions? And, can we do anything to ensure that most of our decisions produce successful outcomes?

We make decisions in a number of different ways. Sometimes we simplify things by only using one decision making method. At other times we combine a number of different techniques. In this article we briefly discuss a number of these techniques.


The most common method of making decisions is to consider the consequences of our decision: “If I do this what is likely to happen?”

Consequences is popular in the corporate world because loads of research data can be analysed and applied to the process. Case studies can be poured over in the search for parallel situations that might give comfort about the likely outcome of a decision.

The problem with the consequences method is that no two situations are exactly alike. It is impossible to create a precise model of what will happen. Articles in leading business publications like The Harvard Business Review and Forbes repeatedly point to the fact that around eighty percent of new product launches fail. The corporations that launch these products spend millions on research, product development and market research. Their failure points to the difficulty of pre-judging outcomes.

The other challenge with the consequences method of decision making is that it is likely to lead to inertia or negative decisions. How often have you postponed a decision or decided “not to” because of the cost or price consequences?

What If?

A favourite form of star gazing is to discuss possible outcome scenarios. “What is likely to happen if we do this?” Intuitive thinkers love this route to making decisions. They believe that their ability to visualise gives them an edge when it comes to predicting outcomes. Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence to support their confidence in their ability.

Some people are better at “guessing” than others. It may be that they are luckier or perhaps they have such a long history of experiencing similar situations that their guesses are better educated.


Coroners regularly conduct postmortem on the bodies of the deceased. Their purpose is to ascertain the cause of death. In decision making it is possible to use a similar yet opposite process, the premortem. This technique was first proposed by  Gary Klein and published in the Harvard Business Review in September 2007.

In a premortem you assume that the decision you are seeking to make turned out to be a disaster, the patient died. You then ask yourself, “what caused the death, the failure?” This is a different process from “what ifing” because you have created a “factual situation”. You can then ask more specific questions which often lead to clearer answers.

An interesting, and often helpful, variation on the premortem is to assume success. “The patient thrived, what caused this success?”


Our own self-identity plays an important part in our decision making process. CEO’s who regard themselves as decisive, clear thinkers are liable to make quick decisions based on facts and figures. Others who regard themselves as being more compassionate, team players may find decisions that affect people more difficult. Those who see themselves as “thinkers” may find that pouring over the data and considering all of their options ties them in knots.

It is therefore important to be clear about your own self image before making a decision. The way you identity yourself, your self-image, your level of self-confidence are all likely to be reflected in your decisions.

Now you have to decided how, when or whether to use what you have just learned to make good decisions!

This is just a brief introduction to some decision making methods, these are amplified and clarified in our personal and leadership development coachingprogrammes.

Self-identity and self-image and the roles they play in our live are key topics in our Journey of Self-Discovery workshop next month.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

About David Ferrers

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