What is a decision? The word decision can be defined as, “the act of reaching a conclusion or making up one’s mind” (American Heritage, 2000). Essentially, a decision is a choice that an individual or a group of people makes. A decision can be a single action, an entire process, or even just a single spoken word or gesture. Decision-making is one of the defining characteristics of leadership. Making decisions is what managers and leaders are paid to do, and is an integral part of their day’s duties.
The affects of decisions can range from minor in consequence to life or career threatening. Regardless of the consequences, it is important to understand when a decision needs to be made and the best way to make it.
This paper will focus on the Rational Model for decision-making. The first section will describe the Rational Model for decision-making. It will identify all the steps of the Rational Model and what they entail. The second section will detail a recent job-related issue I was involved with.
I will discuss the issue and show how the Rational Model of decision-making was effectively utilized to reach a decision.
Decision Making Model – The Rational Model
A decision is a solution chosen from among alternatives. Decisions must be made when a person is faced with a problem or an issue that needs resolution. Decision-making is the process of selecting a course of action (ideas or alternatives) that will solve a problem and resolve any issues. Decision-making models provide people with a method for making decisions. There are numerous decision-making methods people utilize today.
Some are meant to be all encompassing, meaning they can be utilized in many different environments. Others are specific to issues or industries, such as technology, psychology, and mathematics. Regardless of the problem, there is usually a decision-making process that is best suited for any situation, and it is up to us to find it.
The Rational Model
According to the School of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University, the Rational Model of decision-making, “requires comprehensive problem definition, an exhaustive search for alternatives, and thorough data collection and analysis. According to this model, information exchange and communication are unbiased, and accurate decision alternatives are intentionally chosen to bring maximum benefits to the individual, organization or group” (2003, p. 3).
Essentially, the Rational Model requires people to have a clear understanding of the actual problem. Unless the issue is clearly established, the Rational Model can be ineffective. This model also incorporates extensive research, so that all options or alternatives can be brought before the decision-maker(s).
The Rational Model is a step-by-step decision-making model. Depending on the source of definition for the Rational Model, it consists of anywhere from four to nine steps that must be taken to reach a comprehensive, educated and effective solution. Basically, the Rational Model can be broken down into four basic steps, which can be further diluted to create the additional three to five steps.
Step 1 – Define the Problem
The first step of the Rational Model is to define the problem. As stated in the definition, in order for the Rational Model to be effective, the problem or issue needs to be clearly understood. It is imperative to truly understand to source of a problem, not just the symptoms. The MBA program at the University of Houston Victoria provides this example, “if a member of your staff is impolite to a client on the phone, the problem may not be that your staff member is impolite–it may be that he needs customer service training, or that he is having difficulty coping with the stress that his professional responsibilities involve” (2005). Essentially, the virus needs to be treated, not the cough it causes.
Step 2 – Generate Ideas/Alternatives
The second step to the Rational Method is the generation of a list of possible solutions or alternatives.
The Rational Method requires that all possible solutions to a problem be discovered. No solutions should ever be evaluated or discarded at this point of the decision-making process. This process requires extensive research, and multiple resources and parties should be involved in the generation of this list. This search should continue until all possible solutions .