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What Is Decision-Making & How Can You Use Visuals to Enhance the Process?

By Jennifer Gaskin, Jan 07, 2022

decision making process blog header

Every business or organization is more or less the sum of all its decisions. Some are small (what platform should we use for billing) and some are huge (how many people should we hire). But when it comes to actually deciding the best way forward, it’s wise for businesses to create a decision-making process or model.

In addition to applying a rational decision-making model, organizations can also make use of visuals like charts or infographics, which can help visualize the decisions they need to make in order to ensure they’re on the right path. 

Learn more about decision-making, effective decision-making models, the steps involved and how custom visuals you can create with Venngage for Business can help your organization make its next move. 

 

Click to jump ahead:

What is decision-making?

While decision-making is a daily part of life (do you turn left or right at this intersection?), in a business context, coherent decision-making can be the difference between company success or failure. That’s why organizations need to use a well-thought-out and rational decision-making system for investigating problems or opportunities and deciding on how to proceed.

What is a decision-making process?

A business or other organization is likely to have several decision-makers involved in making crucial calls like how to set prices or what strategy to employ for resolving supply chain issues. That’s why using a standard decision-making process or set of steps that are followed for each new problem is important.

Here’s an example of a program escalation flowchart used to assist help desk employees with customer tickets. Notice that throughout the process, each decision is made based on the information/data given at hand in a rational way. Making sure that every help desk employee follows this process is important in guaranteeing a consistent experience for the customer:

decision tree
 

Having a set procedure to make informed decisions can help everyone rest easy knowing that they didn’t simply make a call on a whim. A standardized business decision-making process can also help ease the burden of training and onboarding new workers, as you simply train them in the process of arriving at a final decision rather than making the call for them.

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What are the steps involved in decision-making?

There are many decision-making models out there, and the truth is that the right one will depend on your organization. That’s not to say that you have to use any pre-established method for decision-making. 

But generally, a decision-making process should involve at least these steps:

  • Identify a problem
  • Gather information about the problem
  • Consider options for change
  • Take action
  • Analyze results and (if necessary) start the process over again

Whatever steps your organization uses to make decisions, it’s important to follow each one every time. That way, in retrospect you’ll be able to decide whether you did things the right way or examine where things went wrong through your course of action, thus coming up with new perspectives to solve problems.

This is also a good way to make sure that you examine all the different alternatives and affected parties while making a decision, and guarantee that many voices are heard rather than just one.

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What are the types of decision-making?

Each of us makes an incalculable number of decisions every single day, with varying degrees of seriousness and difficulty attached to them. How we approach making those choices is due mostly to the question at hand and what consequences will result from them.

Business decision-making is similar in that there are different types of decision-making that will vary in terms of complexity and impact. 

In organizations, there are three broad types of decision-making:

  • Strategic
  • Tactical
  • Operational

To put these into the context of a sports team: The owner sets the strategy (we want to win a championship), the coach sets the tactics (the lineup and plays that will give us the best chance) and the players are responsible for operations (executing plays to win the game).

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Visual decision-making tools

There are many ways to integrate visuals into your decision-making, including creating diagrams and graphs that are made specifically to speak to the business decision-making process. But there are other types of visuals that can help at various points of the decision-making process.

Decision trees

Decision trees are so named because they bear an abstract sort of resemblance to an upside-down tree: the root/objective is a the top, with options or courses of action branching out from there and outcomes/leaves connecting to each path.

In some cases, decision trees also include data that relates to outcomes or options, and this is an excellent way of helping team members make an informed decision by considering different scenarios, examining alternatives and balancing the various factors that go into making the choice at hand.

This decision tree template turns the standard decision tree on its head—well, on its side, really—with the root at the left and the leaves or outcomes to the right. In each case, important data points are included, which gives decision-makers the context they need.

decision making process
 

Check out the best decision tree makers that can help you make the tough calls.

Use a more traditional decision tree layout by customizing this template with your company’s information. Put your choice at the top and add or remove branches and leaves as necessary to help pinpoint the right move for your organization.

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Related:

Decision matrix

A decision-making matrix is a popular way of visualizing competing contenders, and many companies use them for a variety of purposes across the organization. It’s an ideal way to weigh options when there are several factors at play, as it allows the user to quickly evaluate the options.

A decision matrix can also be called a grid analysis, decision grid or problem selection matrix.

decision making process asana decision matrix
Asana decision matrix example

As this example from the project management company Asana illustrates, the best way to create and use a decision matrix is to list the possible decisions on one axis and the benefits across the other axis. Or you could flip it on its head and list the drawbacks. In some cases, your decision matrix will be populated by pluses or minuses, but you can also use numbers to create a definitive score of which decision is best.

Here’s an example of a decision matrix set up to determine which website optimization project to focus on:

decision matrix
 

Fishbone diagram

Fishbone diagrams are most often used to identify cause and effect. In an organizational context, that means identifying potential reasons for a problem by listing the problem (the effect) and possible reasons for it (the cause). A fishbone diagram gets its name because these causes and effects take on the appearance of a fishbone.

Some of them are pretty literal, as in the example below. If you squint, it looks like a cartoon fish, making it an excellent fishbone diagram example. But this lets you see the value in this type of visual decision-making tool, as this example includes circles of varying size to help illustrate their relative difficulty or weight.

decision making process
 

Other fishbone diagrams are a bit less literal but no less effective. This fishbone diagram displays cause and effect in an easy-to-understand way that lets the decision-maker organize the information in their minds before coming to a conclusion.

decision making process
 

Related: 10+ Types of Diagrams and How to Choose the Right One

Comparison infographic

We’ve all made pros and cons charts, and comparison infographics are kind of the same thing. Take two or more options and compare and contrast them across a variety of categories—a visual like this can help the decision-maker to consider all the choices before arriving at a final decision.

This comparison infographic is ideal when you have only a few options to compare and not a ton of categories across which to measure them. It’s also a good option for cases in which the categories aren’t all standard; for example, some of these categories are a yes-or-no, while others come with specific data points.

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As this comparison infographic shows, the information included isn’t limited to a few words. While it would take a bit longer to fully understand the options, in cases where complex decisions are being made, this type of comparison infographic can provide useful context.

decision making process
 

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Decision-making FAQs

Have more questions about decision-making in business? We’ve got answers.

What are the steps involved in decision-making?

At its most basic, decision-making should include problem identification, information gathering, solution comparison, implementation and analysis. 

What is the 5 step decision-making process?

The decision-making process we’ve outlined as the basic one includes the fives steps of:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Gathering relevant information
  • Comparing possible solutions
  • Implementing the chosen solution
  • Analyzing the results

What are the seven steps in decision-making?

A seven-step decision-making process takes a slightly more expansive look, though in the end, the work involved is basically the same as in a five-step process. A seven-step process adds specific steps for identifying alternative solutions, weighing evidence for or against each one and choosing from those options.

What are the 5 decision-making models?

There are five decision-making models that organizations can apply to make the best business decisions:

  1. The rational decision-making model: The decision-maker properly goes through every step of the decision-making process. This is best used when the decision-maker has all information and data available at hand when making the decision—that is, all problems, objectives and alternatives are clear and people anticipate all the consequences.
  2. The intuitive decision-making model: In other words, a “go with your gut” or “trust your instinct” model, which should be used in areas where you’re most familiar and comfortable with (you have enough experience to recognize patterns of the problem or what’s needed to make the best decision.)
  3. The bounded rationality model: Decision-makers make the best of the situation based on what they have at hand—in other words, they can settle for a less optimal decision because the better choices require more time, resources and commitment.
  4. The retrospective decision model: This is when the decision-maker attempts to rationalize and justify their decisions after they’ve been made or in other words, it’s used to rationalize a decision made intuitively.
  5. The recognition model: Applied when decision-makers have experienced similar problems, can recognize patterns in the information and data that are available and choose the right course of action based on such patterns. Like the intuitive model, this is best used in an area you’re more familiar with.

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In summary: Being confident in your company’s choices is easier if you follow a decision-making process

Venngage for Business is the best way to create your own decision-making visuals, from fishbone diagrams to comparison infographics. Apply your branding with a few clicks and keep your team engaged to the finish line.

 
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About Jennifer Gaskin

A veteran of newsrooms and agencies, Jennifer Gaskin is a writer, editor and designer who is the only living person not to have strong feelings on the Oxford comma. She's an award-winning practitioner of journalism and information design who spent the better part of a decade as the creative director of a digital marketing shop. As a writer, Jennifer contributes to a variety of publications while working with clients as well as taking on her own projects.

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