Decision making is defined as “the cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives” (Decision Making, 2006, para. 1). Decisions are made continually throughout our day. For the most part, our decision-making processes are either sub-conscious or made fairly quickly due to the nature of the decision before us. Most of us don’t spend much time deciding what to have for lunch, what to wear, or what to watch on television. For other, more complex decisions, we need to spend more time and analyze the elements of the decision and potential consequences.
To assist with this, many people employ the use of a decision-making model. Utilizing a model can serve as a guide for the steps to take in working through an issue to reach a conclusion, but the ability to think critically is crucial in executing the guidelines of the model. One such model is the 7-Step Decision-Making Model. The 7-Step Decision-Making Model was developed by Rick Roberts, director of the University of North Florida’s career services department (Roberts, 2006).
Though originally intended to guide students through the process of choosing their area of study, and eventually their ultimate career path, it can also be applied to other decisions, both related and unrelated to career exploration. The emphasis with this model is that in order to be effective, the individual faced with a decision must be armed with as much information as possible, and that following the steps in the model will allow for the organization and structure to process and identify critical pieces of information.
As the name states, the model consists of seven steps that guide the user through the decision making process. Step One: Identify the Decision to be Made Evaluate the issue at hand and identify the core decision to be made. This sounds easy, and many times is, but the core decision can sometimes become clouded in the muddle of other issues that may be surrounding the root of the decision. Critical thinking should be applied to this first step by eliminating pitfalls that can occur, especially if the decision is one whose ultimate outcome is impacted by emotional forces as well as factual information.
In my case, I was offered a job to become the Executive Director of another non-profit organization in my community. With this offer, came a flood of emotional initial reactions from me, both positive and negative. In order to make the right decision for me, I had to isolate the ultimate issue. The decision I had to make was if I wanted to leave my current organization and accept the new position. Step Two: Know Yourself Once the decision has been defined, the second step in the process is to perform a self-assessment.
There are four sub-categories for the self-assessment: Skills, Interests, Values, and Personality. This requires critical thinking because the self-assessment must be done as honestly as possible and only information that has relevance to the decision at hand should be included. When assessing myself in relation to my decision at hand, I need to be able to separate only the types of skills and traits that apply directly to the decision, and omit factors that do not apply. Critical thinking also gives me a tool to judge myself in the most objective way possible.
As much as I would like to tell you that I am the easy going, go with the flow, flexible and happy-go-lucky type of girl, I know that is often not the way I behave at work. I can be seen as rigid and inflexible due to my desire for order, organization, and strict adherence to guidelines. While some view my ability to organize and keep order as a positive trait, and it is working very well for me in my current position, I need to ask myself how it will be viewed in the new position. Another important element of the self-assessment is the examination of your values.
There is a huge part of me that loves to achieve professionally and likes to be known as the hardest worker and the best at what I do. To be named the executive director of an organization as a 31 year old female would truly be an achievement. Another part of me greatly values the work arrangement that I have because of the flexibility to spend time with my family, still be fulfilled by a career, and not have guilt about either. The new position requires more hours and responsibility, but it also provides more pay, which would make my family more comfortable financially.
Ultimately, I have to use my critical thinking skills to examine this conflict in my values and decide for myself what I value most, extreme career achievement, money and prestige, or the ability to be available for my family. Step Three: Identify Your Options In my case, there seems to be only two options, take the new position, or stay with Junior Achievement. One could argue that there are limitless other options such as quitting my job to stay home with my children full time, but I chose to use my critical thinking skills to narrow the available options to the two listed above.
Step Four: Gather Information and Data This is an important step, and critical thinking comes into play in a large way when gathering information. In my case, I used several sources to gather the data to help me make the decision. I spoke with my current supervisor, I asked questions of the new organization regarding their expectations, the hours required, travel, and benefits. I spoke to my husband to hear his opinion and information regarding how he could change his work schedule should I accept the new position.
The critical thinking element enters into this step when I had to understand that in most cases, each person I spoke with had their own agenda to consider. My boss did not want me to leave Junior Achievement, so she had a certain “spin” on the new position to make it less attractive. The Board Chair of the new organization wanted me to work there, so he had a spin that made the position more attractive. I had to use my critical thinking skills to recognize these appeals to my emotions and other tricks that are used (consciously or sub-consciously) to try and influence my decision.
Step Five: Evaluation Options That Will Solve the Problem This step requires that you take all of the information you have collected from the previous four steps and evaluate it in relation to the two options selected previously. There are four sub-sets to this step, the first is identify the pros and cons. For me, that involved physically listing the positives (more money, opportunities to grow, personal achievement) and the negatives (much less time with family, more job stress, abandonment of educational goals).
I also had to assess the values and needs satisfied by each alternative, identify the risks associated with each alternative, and project probably future consequences of selecting each. Once again, critical thinking must be employed to safe guard against overly emotional responses, fallacious reasoning, and false information provided during the information gathering phase that could cloud judgment. Step Six: Select One of the Options As you have guessed from reading my initial bio from the class, I opted to pass on the opportunity and stay with Junior Achievement.
Ultimately, by following the decision making model, I reached the conclusion that my family is more important than my career aspirations as this stage in my life. Did I make the “right” decision? The topic of the “right decision” and its definition has been discussed in depth during class this week. I made the best decision for me at this time in my life. If someone else were faced with the same decision, they may have chosen the alternative. If I were faced with this decision in fifteen years, my choice could be different. Step Seven: Design a Course of Action to Implement the Decision
Ultimately, I did not need to change anything about my current job in order to design a course of action to fit with my decision. However, I did use this period of reflection as an opportunity to create a plan for my next five years, in terms of my professional and educational life. My plan is to stay at Junior Achievement, and grow with my job as opportunities present themselves. I will continue to pursue my Bachelor’s in Business Management, and continue on with the University of Phoenix to obtain my MBA with an emphasis on Human Resources.
Through my evaluation of my preferences in the field of business, I discovered that I most likely do not want to work for a non-profit organization for the rest of my career, and that my most desired area of work is in the field of human resources. Being a critical thinker, I do realize that my circumstances, feelings, values, and other components of my life may change between now and then. However, through this process, I have benefited from the development of a plan that includes both short and long term goals.
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