It is important to do a thorough analysis and all factors to be considered before a decision is taken?
What is rational decision making?
We all make decisions in everyday life, both as individuals and in groups. These range from simple decisions - for example, choosing what to eat, which route to take to work, which products to buy in the shop - to complex decisions about changing jobs, moving house, choosing schools and participating as a member of a local community in planning decisions and improvements.
What processes do we go through in making these decisions about different possible courses of action? Are they the same every time? Are they the same for everyone?
Just as there are different types of decision, there are also different approaches to decision making that are relevant in different circumstances.
Some decisions are made rationally and logically, while others are made more instinctively or less consciously, sometimes based on the smooth performance of a practised skill. Yet others appear not to be made intentionally at all, but are dictated by sudden changes in knowledge or circumstances - for example, when trying to decide between one route and another and finding that one way is blocked.
In practice, other options may still be available but it appears as though the decision has been made for you. Variation in choice may also mean that one person has a decision to make and another does not.
Individuals and groups also have different preferences for how they make decisions and articulate what they do. Decision making is, at times, such a dynamic process that it can be difficult to tell whether a decision is being made or not. Whether we are directly involved in decision making (and in what capacity) or how we are affected by decisions others appear to have made, also affects our perspectives on decision making.
Decision making is such an integral part of most people’s everyday lives that it is sometimes difficult to tell where decision making starts and ends.
An activity closely allied to decision making, yet different, is policy making. Policies are plans, courses of action or procedures that are intended to influence decisions. As such, they form part of the context for decision making, often providing guiding principles. But decision making is also a part of policy making and there is a dynamic relationship between decision making and policy making.
These two activities differ mainly in their purposes. A decision will usually be specific to a situation, even though it will be linked to other decisions in other situations. A policy however may apply more generically. Why does this difference matter? It matters when a decision made in one situation sets a precedent that may become a ‘de facto’ policy.
Examples where a decision has become a 'de facto' policy this has happened can be found in planning processes where precedents set are taken into account when appeals are made regarding granting planning permission.
De facto policy also applies in some countries regarding prosecution of small scale polluters, where it is not practical to implement environmental legislation in a literal sense in all cases.
Developing policy for dealing with diffuse pollution (i.e. from multiple sources) within water catchments is an example where decision making interacts with policy making. Problems of diffuse pollution are widespread, and where practical ways of improving diffuse pollution situations have been found, these have influenced policy options.