Decision Quality Management: Identify the Exact Problem You’re Solving

Learn to differentiate between simple, complicated, and complex decisions

Decision Quality Management

In the world of manufacturing—where deadlines are tight and the demand for quality is high—it can be hard to make decisions with the confidence that you’ve explored every option thoroughly.

Time crunches and quality demands won’t go away, affirms organizational excellence expert Duke Okes—but you can learn to make justified decisions efficiently and with proven strategies. Part of that means differentiating between simple, complicated, and complex decisions and modifying your decision-making process appropriately. Okes explains these decision-making strategies in his AudioSolutionz webinar, “Manage Your Decision Quality: Strategies for Individuals & Groups.”

3 Types of Decisions & Problems

Good decision quality management means first understanding the type of decision you are trying to make—to address a simple, complicated, or complex problem.

Definition: While the details can vary slightly depending on your situation, here is a simple run-down, according to marketing consultant Valeria Maltoni:

  • Simple problems are like baking a cake from a mix: Follow the recipe, and you’ll probably get a tasty cake.
  • Complicated problems are like sending a rocket to the moon: Some of the time, the task can be broken down and addressed in a series of simple problems. However, unanticipated difficulties are frequent because success relies on specific timing, coordination among multiple people, and/or specialized expertise.
  • Complex problems are like raising a child: Each child is unique, and raising one right does not mean you can raise a second the same way and get identical results. Expertise is valuable but not sufficient, and the outcomes are highly uncertain.

It can be difficult to tell complex problems from complicated problems, writes Theodore Kinni for MIT’s Sloan Management Review. But doing so is critical because you can handle complicated problems with rules, recipes, and algorithms, he writes. “They also can be resolved with systems and processes, like the hierarchical structure that most companies use to command and control employees.” On the other hand, those same solutions don’t work as well for complicated problems, he says.

Kinni recommends the following to identify your decision approach:

  • Recognize what type of system you are dealing with
  • Think about managing the problem, not solving it
  • Employ a try/learn/adapt strategy
  • Develop a “complexity mindset”—that is, multiple perspectives on an issue

Employ Process Quality Management

By putting decision making in terms of process quality management, decision-makers can get an overall top-level view, says Okes.

Process quality management is already popular in the business world, where it is used to improve processes related to control, analysis, and design and implementation.

In management, it’s a “set of procedures that are followed to ensure that the deliverables produced by a team are ‘fit for purpose,’” says Method 123. You can also think of process quality management as changing processes to push innovation, according to manufacturing services provider RJ Lee Group.

The method is closely related to Six Sigma, the process coined by Motorola to improve business processes by minimizing defects, notes warehousing consultants Newcastle Systems. This type of quality control will also be familiar to those involved in attaining International Standards Organization quality management standards.

For Okes, host of the AudioSolutionz webinar “Manage Your Decision Quality: Strategies for Individuals & Groups,” mastering good process quality management means scoring a dynamic, adaptable process to ease the decision-making process—and doing so with confidence.

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Jeff Schmerker
About Jeff Schmerker
Jeff has extensive professional experience writing on a variety of topics, from pharmaceutical research to environmental history. He has published more than a half-dozen books, and he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and restaurant reviewer. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife and son.