Decisions are a critical part of the life of people, whether teachers or leaders. Even though this is an important skill, many people struggle with making decisions about important and even mundane matters. In this post, we will look at several challenges to making decisions.
There are times when a decision is made, and after some time, all parties involved begin to realize it was a bad decision. The challenge in this context is that since time and resources have already been devoted to this bad choice, maybe if everyone is patient, things will begin to work out. Generally, this is not the case.
Organizations and schools make this kind of mistake all the time. For example, a new curriculum or technology is adopted by the school. It is clear that this software or tech is not working, but a commitment has already been made. Such a situation can lead to a great deal of frustration among faculty and staff.
Nobody can predict the future. When it is unclear in terms of what to expect, it can lead to analysis paralysis, which essentially means that leadership or the teacher tries not to make a decision until new evidence arises. Unfortunately, new evidence is normally not forthcoming except that there is now less time to decide, and options begin to disappear because of lost time.
Since there is no way to be 100% sure of anything, the next best approach may be to make small incremental decisions and or take a step forward and be bold and see what happens. Neither of these alternatives is attractive, but there are times when a decision must be made.
Due to procrastination, there are times when there is not enough time to decide. Again, some teachers and leaders what as long as possible and then go with the only viable option when they are forced to decide. When this happens, the teacher can blame the context for what happened when the reality is that they did not want to make a decision. There is no better excuse than a lack of time in many situations.
Time can be an ally in decision-making if used for thinking rather than for avoiding making a decision. Too often, people fall for the temptation of letting circumstances dictate their choices.
Limits of Reasoning
While thinking is good, there are limits to what reasoning can accomplish. There is no way to collect all data and process all possibilities when it is time to decide. Eventually, there comes the point where a teacher has thought enough about a decision and must make a decision. However, not too many people fall for the trap of limited reasoning as reasoning is not generally encouraged in this day and age.
People are often more comfortable with situations in which their own ideas and beliefs agree with the decision to be made. For example, a group of teachers may agree on something because they share similar backgrounds and thus have a similar perspective on a matter. This is an example of confirmation bias in which a person looks for information in agreement with their own position. Such examples can include people who agree with you or information that supports your position.
Bias is not always bad. If a decision needs to be made quicker, then a group of people with similar views can agree fast. However, suppose the goal is a creative or innovative solution. In that case, a diverse group is more likely to challenge and stretch each other to a novel idea.
The final barrier to decision-making is conflict. Most people want to avoid conflict as it can lead to disharmony and other problems. However, people will not agree in the decision-making process, and they often like their idea at the expense of other people’s ideas.
There are two forms of conflict. Process conflict is disagreements about doing something and is not about an individual. Relationship conflict is personal and involves attacks on the person rather than the process or idea. Process conflict can lead to better processes, but once it becomes personal, it can collapse the decision-making process. It is difficult for many people to separate themselves from their shared ideas, but learning to do this is highly beneficial for the decision-making experience.
Decisions need to be made alone and in groups. Whatever the case may be, there are impediments to the decision-making process that people need to be aware of. The ideas presented here are just some of the challenges awaiting people who need to make up their minds about something.