Is It Reasonable? Is It Responsible? A Decision Making Model

How do you make decisions? Using intuition, a feeling, or temporary mood? Many people are often searching for simple ways to evaluate whether they are making good decisions. There are many ways to make decisions:

1. Through sheer experience…we have years of know how.
2. Through educated guessing
3. Empirical models, data, spreadsheets, statistics.
4. Others’ opinions, ideas, views.
5. Concrete skills


Often there is no clear cut guideline, and practices may vary at different points. I have found that making so called “value decisions” where our decision affects others should consider two tangiblle principles:

Is it reasonable? Is it responsible? In this case, “it” refers to something that should be acted upon, addressed, or it could be a sensitive personal decision. Many times using these principles can be simply used to evalulate our own logic around a matter that is not clear cut, for example:

A decision needs to be made about a human resource matter. It involves a real person, her future, or her role in the organization. There are many concrete pieces of evidence for and against a chosen course, however the executive continues to go in mental circles trying to weigh each, until no clear decision can be made. It is a dilemma, one that cannot be easily determined. There are certainly evidence for moving this person into another position, but still other barriers and issues that could be created in the process. What should the executive do?

Evaluate each variable in terms of its reasonableness, and responsibleness
Simply asking the question as to whether one variable is reasonable, and responsible is a good starting point to get clarity and to center the decision on something principle centered. The answer will not be arbitary, but likely connect with deeper, and more important considerations. The leader’s own logic as to how the decision is made, can also be evaluated using these two concepts. It brings clarity, where ambiguity initially resided.

The next time you’re stuck with a problem, question the possible options in terms of their reasonableness, and whether they are responsible. You might be surprised how appropriate the conclusions you arrive at clear up your thinking about the problem.


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