Every decision-making process reaches a conclusion, which can be a choice to act or not to act, a decision on what course of action to take and how, or even an opinion or recommendation. Sometimes decision making leads to redefining the issue or challenge. Accordingly, three decision-making processes are known as avoiding, problem solving, and problem seeking.
One decision-making option is to make no choice at all. There are several reasons why the decision maker might do this:
- There is insufficient information to make a reasoned choice between alternatives.
- The potential negative consequences of selecting any alternative outweigh the benefits of selecting one.
- No pressing need for a choice exists and the status quo can continue without harm.
- The person considering the alternatives does not have the authority to make a decision.
One example of avoiding a decision occurs routinely at the Supreme Court of the United States (as well as other appellate courts). The Supreme Court will decline to hear a case because, in their judgment, the issues have not been sufficiently considered in lower courts.
Most decisions consists of problem-solving activities that end when a satisfactory solution is reached. In psychology, problem solving refers to the desire to reach a definite goal from a present condition. Problem solving requires problem definition, information analysis and evaluation, and alternative selection.
On occasion, the process of problem solving brings the focus or scope of the problem itself into question. It may be found to be poorly defined, of too large or small a scope, or missing a key dimension. Decision makers must then step back and reconsider the information and analysis they have brought to bear so far. We can regard this activity as problem seeking because decision makers must return to the starting point and respecify the issue or problem they want to address.