Operational Decision Making


Makes timely and sound decisions through identifying and understanding issues, priorities, problems, opportunities and probable consequences, comparing data from different sources to draw conclusions (contextual and systems analysis), and using effective approaches for choosing a course of action or developing appropriate solutions. Click here for associated skills and behaviors.

Ways to Demonstrate this Skill

Development Activities

§         Recognize issues, problems and opportunities that relate to your area of responsibility.

§         Identify potential problems before they occur.

§         Involve stakeholders in identifying and analyzing organizational issues, problems and opportunities.

§         Having identified an issue, problem or opportunity, determine whether (and by when) action is needed.

§         Observe how others involve stakeholders in planning and decision-making.

§         List issues you need to address (in your area of responsibility) and identify individuals to involve in the decision-making process.

§         Find a senior manager or colleague whose decision-making abilities you respect. Ask if they will act as your sounding-board as you examine a problem, issue or opportunity. Discuss with them whether action should be taken and why. Seek to understand their reasoning. Also discuss timing issues.

§         Volunteer for a special project or task force charged to address an organizational problem that involves data gathering and analysis, involving key stakeholders in the problem-solving process, and building commitment and accountability.

§         Gather information from multiple sources in order to understand issues, problems and opportunities.

§         Analyze the information and identify trends, links, and cause-and-effect relationships.

§         When starting tasks requiring analysis, clarify the information needed, sources of information, and ways to relate pieces of information. Review your plan with someone (e.g., a peer) whose strength is analysis and get his or her suggestions. Write out your completed analysis and ask the same individual to review it.

§         Ask someone whose opinion you respect to help you review some key decisions in your area of the organization. Review successes and failures and discuss how analysis contributed to successful results. Discuss how better analysis could have led to better decisions in unsuccessful situations.


§         Use your understanding of the information (above) to generate options for acting on the issues, problems, and opportunities.

§         To the extent possible, involve others in generating options and choosing a course of action.

§         Take an issue, problem or opportunity in your area of responsibility, do some data gathering and analysis, and generate as many options as you can for dealing with the situation.

§         For two or three best options, do a +/- evaluation of each to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Then try to re-work the options to strengthen them, or create another option that has the best features of the others but fewer weaknesses.


§         Make decisions in situations where the needs of the individual, the unit, and the organization are in conflict. To the extent possible, produce a decision that resolves the conflicting needs.

§         Identify someone who builds commitment effectively and ask him or her to help you review your execution strategies. Ask them to identify areas for you to enhance commitment and accountability.


§         Communicate the decision and initiate action within an appropriate timeframe.

§         Where group action is required, establish clear next steps, milestones, ownership and accountabilities.




Developmental Resources


     If you find workshops and/or web-based training a good way for you to learn and develop, and there are funds available, look for opportunities that address the following:

§         Using effective questioning techniques to gather relevant information.

§         Organizing information quickly and systematically.

§         Simplifying complex information.

§         Identifying gaps in an information base.


§         Developing a grasp of significant parts of information, especially the broader issues.

§         Drawing conclusions that are difficult to challenge because of well-developed rationale.

§         Checking conclusions and developing contingency plans.



     The following books are resources on operational decision-making:

     Altier, W.J. (1999). The Thinking Manager’s Toolbox: Effective Processes for Problem Solving and Decision Making. New York: OxfordUniversity Press.

     Hammond, J.S., Kenney, R.L., & Raiffa, H. (1999). Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions. Boston: HarvardBusinessSchool Press.

     Hoenig, C.W. (2000). The Problem Solving Journey: Your Guide to Making Decisions and Getting Results. Reading, MA: Perseus Press.

     Jones, M.D. (1998). The Thinker’s Toolkit: Fourteen Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving. New York: Times Books.

     Koller, G.R. (2000). Risk Modeling for Determining Value and Decision Making. Boca Raton, FL: Chapman & Hall/CRC Press.

     Sanders, R. (1999). The Executive Decision Making Process: Identifying Problems and Assessing Outcomes. Westport, CN: Quorum Books.




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