Decision Management: A REALLY Good Idea

Management Management

We live and work in an era where everything is being managed. Of course, we can write long lists describing what management means (it’s relative) but the practice of documenting, categorizing, naming conventions, analysis, identifying dependencies, reviewing risks, developing policies and training make a pretty good start. We do this with nearly every aspect of our work. We manage finances, information about our customers, vacation time, parking lots and supply chains. This bit is about managing decisions…the creepy human dimension of business process.

Decisions Decisions Decisions

If you’ve participated in workflow redesign or BPM/BPA at all, you know there are all kinds of parts and pieces to identify and control for. Activities, triggers, actors, business rules, etc. There is a key factor impacting your workflow and it’s the decision. Decision arise and become a factor when more than one outcome or path is possible in a workflow. Consider a simple example like a customer calling the Customer ServiceDepartment to file a complaint. What kind of complaint is it? In an insurance company, some complaints are grievances. Some complaints can wind up in lawsuit. How does a complaint get escalated? Who should the Rep route the complaint to? Decisions are all about the human emotional, psychological and intellectual (frankly) dimension of dealing with fairly predictable and totally unforeseen events in process. Decisions are made about who, what, where, when, how and why.

Document Decisions Just Like Everything Else

If you don’t already do it, then do it. Document your decision-points. Study them. Why are they there? What if you could obviate a decision? What would it take? Is everyone aware of the business rules that govern the outcome of a decision? When you  document a decision, consider more than the binary “yes” or “no” outcomes. There are lots of “maybe’s”.


Make decision-making an integral part of your training program. Your people need to know how to think. Not because they’re dumb. Because the decisions are governed by rules and there are risks and issues related to decisions taken. That’s why compliance is such a big deal. That’s why you have a corporate attorney. To be sure, bad decision-making happens at every level of the organization. And the higher up they’re made, the bigger the dent they make.

Don’t Try this Alone

Analyzing and controlling for decisions is a group-think exercise. Managing decisions requires keeping your mind and eyes open for possibilities and probabilities. Doing this alone is a bad idea. You will miss something.


When you’re building your workflow diagrams or process models, include as much information about the decision and the paths process follow as a result. Document and save your documentation in an intelligent format according to the same file structures (architecture) you’re using for other documentation. You should be able to find your documentation easily. Why? Because you are likely to use that documentation to inform new policies and processes not to mention training material.

If you decide to analyze workflow and business process then you must manage decisions. 


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