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Episode Transcript

Starting in engineering school and continuing into your career, you’ve gotten a lot of experience in decision-making. 

Your job is primarily to solve problems. And problem-solving is decision making at various levels of complexity. 

It’s much of what engineering is all about. And it’s much of what leadership is about.

Where Engineers Falter in the Decision-Making Process

Decisions offer all kinds of challenges. They can be routine and predictable. Troublesome and demanding. Or tricky and perplexing.

And the higher you move up in leadership, the more impactful decisions become. There’s more you have to take into account. And more at stake.

There are a million versions of the decision making process. Like these 7 steps, for example:

  1. Identify the issue – the decision to be made. 
  1. Gather relevant information.
  1. Identify possible alternatives.
  1. Weigh all the evidence.
  1. Make the decision. (Choose from the alternatives.)
  1. Take action. (Implement your decision.)
  1. Assess your decision and its consequences.

If you’re following a reasonable decision-making process, then you should have no problems. 


And with all your decision-making experience you should have it down pat. 


But what makes decisions difficult is that at some point you gotta put yourself out there.

Even if you’ve accomplished defining the problem, gathering information and identifying alternatives. Even if you’ve done a stellar job weighing all the evidence.

You still get to that next step that says: Decide. 

It’s the step that requires you to make the call. The right answer doesn’t just fall out. You have to make the call.

How Your Engineering Smarts Make the Decision Process Work

It’s hard because 

The decision process doesn’t necessarily take care of all these things. It’s just a guideline.

10 people could face the same decision, follow the same process and come up with 10 different solutions. 

You still have to be the decider. And manage everything that goes along with that.

So let me give you some tips on how to make this easier.

4 Tips for Becoming a More Decisive Engineer

Here are 4 tips for making it easier to decide. To help you develop your decision-making skills and become a more decisive engineer.

  1. Detach

All decisions are easier on you if you can put them in the right perspective. Detach yourself from the decision itself. 

Be as objective as you can. And realize that – whatever the outcome – you’ll have done your best.

  1. Practice Making the Call

Be aware of the daily decisions you make and use them as practice.

Note the different ways you end up “making the call.” 

See where you tend to have difficulties or get hung up.

Note lessons learned and refine your decision-making process.

  1. Make Decisions Faster

The ability to make quicker decisions is admirable in a leader. Too many decisions get drawn out for no good reason, causing more stress among the team. 

Learn to minimize the churn and get to the solution more efficiently. Listen to input. But then call the question.

You won’t have all the data you need to make a perfect decision. So go with what you’ve got. 

And there’s no right or wrong answer. So make your best call based on your knowledge and intuition.

  1. Know Your Why and Stick With It

You can’t please everyone. And some people will disagree with your decision. So it’s important that you know your why. Why you made the decision you did and why it’s the best solution. 

Just as important is owning your why and standing by it.

Even if people disagree, they’ll respect your decision if it’s reasonable and viable. And they’ll respect you for your confidence in it.

Listen to feedback, but stand firm in your decision. Be flexible enough to change your mind, but only when necessary.

If decision-making is confounding your career, sign up for a strategy session with me. Let’s brainstorm ways to strengthen your leadership and decision-making potential. 

You have what it takes to make good decisions. Develop and practice your decision-making skills. 

Make it your goal to be decisive. It’s a rare and coveted characteristic of a strong engineering leader. 

Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast, we’ll explore ways to improve your interactions with people in the engineering workplace. You won’t want to miss Episode 113.