School Business Affairs February 2021

32 FEBRUARY 2021 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS What factors play into the decision- making process? Don’t Blink: Making “Sound” Decisions By Brian O. Brent, PhD, Karen J. DeAngelis, PhD, and Nathan F. Harris, EdM PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT I n his bestselling book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking , Mal- colm Gladwell contends that relying on one’s intuition or gut feeling not only is a defensible way to make decisions, but can be a preferred way to make decisions. How- ever, nearly 50 years of research on decision making suggests otherwise. Good Outcome, Good Decision First, let’s clarify the difference between two distinct decision-making constructs that many use interchangeably: good outcomes and good decisions . Put simply, a good outcome is a desirable result that follows from making a decision. For example, if all staff members and stu- dents arrive at school safely during a snow- storm, that is a good outcome. However, you could have flipped a coin to determine whether to cancel school during that snow- storm (a highly suspect decision-making process) and still realized a good outcome. Alternatively, you could have reviewed repu- table meteorological forecasts, driven the bus routes, consulted with your experienced transportation director, deemed the travel conditions safe, and experienced a weather- related bus accident—a poor outcome. Sound decision making rests on the process one uses to make the decision, regardless of the result. Broadly, a good decision-making process for addressing a district problem or issue would involve the following sequential steps: 1. Specify the problem or issue. Specify the problem clearly, confirm that the prob- lem exists, and disaggregate the “root” causes of the problem. 2. Articulate a rationale. Ensure that solv- ing the problem advances district ends, not simply personal wants. In other words, ensure that the perceived problem is, in fact, a problem from the district’s perspective. 3. Identify the stakeholders. Identify those groups or individuals who are affected by the decision. 4. Specify the objective(s). Clearly specify the objectives you hope to accomplish by solving the problem, and rank them according to importance. 5. Specify alternatives. Specify the alterna- tives that, on their face, should address the objectives and meet your cost constraints. 6. Predict effects. Predict how each alterna- tive will meet each objective. 7. Predict costs. Predict the costs (e.g., money and time) of carrying out each alternative. 8. Balance effects and costs. Consider the relative effects and costs of the various alternatives. 9. Make a decision. Select the alternative, if any, that will meet your objectives and that warrants incurring the associ- ated costs. Good decision processes increase the like- lihood of good outcomes . That said, con- sider whether and when you use the steps prescribed above to make decisions. Upon reflection, it will come as little surprise to learn that people do not often use analytical processes when making decisions but rely on intuition instead. The Briefest History of Decision Analysis Only recently have scholars undertaken earnest efforts to understand how individu- als actually make decisions—a multidisci- plinary field termed decision analysis . For much of recorded history, people believed that a decision’s outcome depended on fate, fortune, gods, and goddesses. SERGEY NIVENS/STOCK.ADOBE.COM