Decision Process

- July 2020 -

Written By: Bill Pierce

We all make dozens of decisions every day without even thinking about it, many of them are made in our subconscious and creative subconscious. By bringing our decision process into the conscious arena and looking at our process we can avoid repeating poor decisions as we go through life.

Last time we talked about the subconscious process where we store our interpretations of reality and our reactions to them (our habits and attitudes). We also covered the creative subconscious which influences our behavior by maintaining our “reality” as we perceive it to be. We act like the person we picture ourselves to be (an example was our buying a new car and seeing the same car everywhere to re-enforce our decision to buy that car). If the facts have changed and our habits, attitudes and rationalization do not match the current facts we could be headed for disaster unless we challenge our assumptions.

The conscious decision process has four steps that all of us go through to solve an issue or occurrence that is in our lives. They are:


We perceive a threat or an opportunity (value to us) that we must/want to react to. Remember that our perception may not be accurate or complete. Our senses have limitations (sight, sound, smell, taste, etc.) as we gather the facts and we can aid them with tools (binoculars, hearing aids, glasses, etc.). We also have those “blind spots” we talked about where our habits and attitudes can hide the truth from us.


We match up our perceptions (what we are “seeing) with our past experiences. Remember the pilot and the flat tire, he matched up the occurrence with his past experiences in the simulator and reacted as he was trained to recover from the incident. This is an area where we should all look out for the new employee who may not have any experiences on the job yet. They will have very limited past experiences to draw from and may freeze up or be unable to make a decision due to their lack of information to draw on.


How does this new information compare to what I already “know” based on my past experiences? This is where we test our past experiences with the facts we have about the current one. The more experiences we have and the more accurate the information is about them the easier it will be to make an accurate determination on what to do. This is where a team effort at the worksite can help us make better decisions. Combining the information from all of us and evaluating it based on our joint perceptions of the current threat or opportunity will result in a better decision and outcome.

Decision and Result

We come to a decision and take the appropriate action or inaction to get the results we want. Then we examine the results, evaluate them against our past experience and start the whole process over again. The high performance person will not dwell on the past nor try to “fix the blame” if the outcome is not what he/she wanted. They will immediately correct for their mistakes or lack of information and make the next decision based on the facts as they know them at the time. The best example I have of this was the “run reviews” the Park Medics at Shenandoah NP did each quarter with their medical control Doctors at the University of Virginia. Each emergency medical run over the past 3 months was discussed and evaluated in depth, with hard questions and factual analysis of every action taken by the Medic during the incident. It was very thorough and tough on each Medic but there were no accusations, no personal attacks and no recriminations. The whole purpose and goal of each review was to make the next time better.

The motto of a poor performer when looking at one of their decisions is “fix the blame fast”. The motto of the high performer when looking at their decisions is “Next time I will do it this way” based on a thorough review of the decision, results and additional information analysis of the best practices available.

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