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Decision Making: What Makes a Decision "Good"?

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Course Credit: 0.15 CEU, 1.5 PDH

Much is yet to be learned about how and why we make decisions, one of our most complex and essential human behaviors. Decision making occurs at all levels in organizations, from strategic decision makers to operational decision makers. Typically, it is the outcome of the decision that determines whether a decision is good or not, however, typically it is the decision making process that affects the outcome.

This presentation will include factors that influence both individual and collaborative decision making, including the impact of cognitive biases. The factors that can help, as well as hinder, decision making will also be discussed. Suggestions from the SPE Technical Report, 2013, entitled The Human Factor: Process Safety and Culture, will be described in the context of improving the decision making process.


Individual decision making
•Different decision making strategies – Continuum of strategies from intuitive to creative
•All depend on SA
•Individual and organizational factors influencing decision making – lack of familiarity, time pressure, uncertainty, complexity, multiple people involved, risk assessment, cognitive limits and cognitive biases
•Factors that can help or hinder- doctrine/rules/procedures; training/experience/ability; preconceptions/objectives

Making decisions with others
•Collaborative decision making

Cognitive biases (as discussed in IOGP 460)
•Availability and representativeness
•Framing and loss aversion
•Plan continuation
•Diffusion of responsibility

Question: So what makes a decision ‘good’? Answer: Using an effective decision making process, and reducing the effects of cognitive biases.
Question: How to ensure this is effective? Answer: Practise and receive feedback- either in real-life situations or in training (simulator/scenario-based).

What can oil & gas industry do: (SPE Technical Report: The Human Factor: Process Safety and Culture, November 2013):
•Organizations can develop systems for reviewing procedures and protocols to support critical analysis and to actively challenge decisions.
•Team processes can help to compensate for what individuals may overlook to reduce the effects of cognitive biases. For example, team members can take turns in playing the role of “devil’s advocate” and the leader can make a habit of asking for deviating opinions or constructive challenge.
•During planning, more time should be invested in anticipating and assessing possible consequences and alternative courses of action.
•Simulator-based training should be developed to test out decision making and receive feedback.
•Supporting decision making by using aspects such as the display of information and access to information, including offsite support centres
•Supervisors should encourage before and after action reviews routinely.
•Peer reviews of decisions be implemented and examples of good practice shared through the SPE.

Assurance methods include:
•Reviewing documentation, procedures, management of change, and internal audits.
•Lessons learned include a human factors analysis and relate to the decision making process rather than only the outcome of the decision.
•The ‘health status’ can be assessed through regular meetings, facilitated focus groups, perception surveys and management reviews with corrective actions.
•Safety management systems and their assurance measures need to be tailored to the maturity of the organization.
•The SPE could play a role in providing benchmarking against other organizations.

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Course Chapters

  • 1Decision Making: What Makes a Decision "Good"? - Chapter 1
    Media Type: Video


Earn credits by completing this course0.15 CEU credit1.5 PDH credits


Margaret Crichton