The Importance and Development of Decision-making and Problem-solving Skills

Decision making and problem solving go hand in hand. To solve a problem, you usually need to make a decision. The main difference between the two is that problem solving is a process, and decision making is an action built upon insights collected during the problem-solving process. [1] In other words, problem solving is a systematic process used to determine the possible answers or solutions to a given situation with decisions and choices being its constituting part.

Two types of decision makers

Generally speaking, there are two predominant types of decision makers. The first type uses a methodical, rational approach, while the other is more spontaneous and instinctive. The first type puts off making decisions until they have gathered enough information or recommendations from others and then analyse the possible outcomes of all gathered options. The second type usually follows their emotions and intuition when choosing the right approach. Their ways of addressing the problems are creative but lack explanation as to why they have chosen one approach over the other. Making valid decisions is an important skill for everyone to possess, especially directors, managers and leaders of any kind since their decisions influence many people. Leaders and managers need to employ their decision-making skills to figure out which solution to pursue. They are the ones who usually confirm and launch next steps to be taken in order to fix a problem.

Identifying the problem

The first step to resolving a problem is determining what it actually is – focus on the causes, not the symptoms. Be methodical and rational in your problem-solving process. Make sure to gather additional information about the nature of the problem from different sources, analyse what has been done so far and whether it only addressed the symptoms or the underlying problem. For example, someone might approach you saying that the air conditioning in your workplace does not work. Don’t jump to call the handyman before checking if the problem actually is a malfunctioning AC. It is possible that the batteries on the remote have died, or that someone accidentally changed the ‘mode’ and turned on the heating instead of cooling, etc. Here, the described problem is not very complex, but effectively depicts how to successfully identify a problem so that the right steps could be taken afterward.

Look for options before deciding

Although the steps you need to take to address a problem might seem obvious most of the time, it is still necessary to find potential alternatives. Finding alternative solutions requires creativity – sometimes seemingly foolish and simple ideas can sprout great solutions. Moving too quickly into making a choice can, at times, have more disadvantages than benefits. After finding several options, each has to be meticulously analysed to determine its efficiency in addressing the problem. Some of the important factors that need to be taken into account are the impact of the decision on the entire organization, cost, ethics of the actions you wish to employ as well as the effect it might have on all parties involved. Postponing or avoiding making a decision will eventually lead you to losing control of the situation. Some problems need to be addressed more promptly than others, so making a list of priorities is an important factor when you have more than one problem that needs to be solved.

Implementation and evaluation

Once a decision has been made, it must be carried out. Follow your list of priorities and make sure that everyone involved knows what their part in the process is. Once a decision has been implemented, it needs to be evaluated. The outcomes of the decision can provide you with valuable guidance and information about the decision-making process, the usefulness of the choice and the implementation procedure itself. The gathered information can help you enhance the company’s response once a similar decision needs to be made (in the future).

[1] Effective Problem Solving and Decision Making. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Feb. 2020].