A Matter of Choice: Enhancing the decision making process

  • Published
  • By Chap. (Maj.) Marvin Williams
  • 56th Fighter Wing Chapel
It is believed that the more choices one has, the easier it is to make a good decision. However, current studies in leadership are finding that having too many choices can be overwhelming and complicate decision making significantly.

For example, in the Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz indicates that choice can be both a blessing and a curse. The paradox is that people relish the idea of choosing, but too many choices can erode decision-making ability. Leaders must be aware of the potential pitfall that comes with too many choices.

Therefore, I propose a strategy for effective decision making including the following principles: avoid committing to too many choices and take advantage of options instead of being encumbered with more choices.

First, leaders must abandon the myth that more choices are better. Psychological studies show that more money or material possessions are not keys to happiness, more things to fill the schedule does not lead to fulfillment and having more choices does not mean one is more productive. Conversely, having more choices can lead to disillusionment, anxiety and stress which can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension and heart attacks in both women and men.

Second, leadership in the 21st century requires managing choices by setting clear priorities. Establishing priorities puts the leader in front of the situation and enables one to anticipate and determine the best course of action. From this vantage point, the leader can reduce the number of options before making a critical decision and create a practice of how to get the best results from everyone in the organization.

Third, leaders need to manage expectations. Managing expectations allows Airmen to seek the best solution instead of the perfect solution. In most situations finding the perfect solution is a fallacy and leaves leaders with second guessing and regret. Managing expectations is not the same as lowering expectations, but it means narrowing the number of choices to consider. In other words, managing expectations requires determining the feasibility of options and whether they can work in a particular situation. The important take-away here is that there is no perfect decision; decision making is about selecting the best option.

Effective leaders cannot burden the decision-making process with the expectation of perfection but they can seek the best solution. Effective leadership in the 21st century will require that Airmen understand the advantages and disadvantages of many options. Since choices will only multiply in the rapidly changing information and technological age, leaders can enhance the decision making process by adopting personal and professional principles for life, setting priorities, and managing expectations. Managing choices effectively will enable Airmen to arrive successfully at the best decision.