Responsible decision-making is a topic that is always on the minds of district leaders. The last year has created even more complex scenarios where district leaders have had to make incredibly difficult decisions. Moreover, while spring turns into summer, school systems have a multitude of important decisions to be made. As school systems across the country continue to “return to normal,” there are many decisions still to be made that will heavily impact stakeholders across the school system and the communities that they serve. While district leaders everywhere weigh the opportunities and obstacles related to the outcomes of possible decisions, they may be left wondering, is there a more systematic approach to responsible decision-making?

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself as you work on strengthening your responsible decision-making skills.

1. What is the situation or challenge?

Decision making at a district level is complex, to say the least. In a larger challenge with decisions to be made, it can also be a complex to clearly see what the true issue is. Sometimes a challenge will come up in a district where the real issue is not what it seems at the surface-level. Uncovering the main issue to be solved can sometimes be difficult, but it’s important to identify what the challenge truly is. By identifying as many components of the situation as possible, leaders are more likely to unveil the root of the issue. This will save time because you will be working through your decision making process more effectively and efficiently. Additionally, taking into account the sources of your facts surrounding your challenge, as well as their perspectives allows you to be more aware of any biases at play in the scope of the information you received. Once you have accounted for your sources, it will lead you to seek out more information, or alternate sources if necessary.

2. How might this situation or challenge be perceived from multiple perspectives?

School systems involve many different groups of people. From stakeholders, building leaders and faculty, parents, as well as general community members, the impact of a decision is far-reaching. As a leader, it’s important to not only take time and reflect on the multiple perspectives involved in the situation or challenge, but also to outline the potential gains and losses for each perspective. Mapping out what each group has to gain and lose based on a decision helps leaders take an informed approach to decision making. Allowing and considering all viewpoints ensures that multiple community perspectives are included. This is one way to make sure that the most responsible decisions are made.

Allowing and considering all viewpoints ensures that multiple community perspectives are included. (Tweet this)


3. What are some possible solutions in this scenario?

It is important for districts to provide solutions to challenges. Listing out a variety of possible solutions and corresponding actionables is a natural part of being a district leader. Asking yourself to explore not just the most obvious solution, but rather, to survey as many potential remedies as possible is a key part in the responsible decision-making process. Without thorough consideration, the first solution you come to may turn out to be problematic or have unintended consequences for a group involved.

By mapping out a few scenarios to a solution, it allows you to take a step back and understand on a deeper level the impact that a particular path could have on your school community and beyond. Getting creative with resolving challenges or situations that come up in your district ensures that all perspectives are taken into account and valued.

4. Are there any ethical or moral considerations that need more analysis?

While working towards making a decision, it’s important to involve more than just your leadership team. Including those impacted at each level is crucial to successfully navigating the challenge. Unbiased decision-making is hard, and including as many stakeholders as possible can lead to the best outcome. Often in complex situations there are unintended consequences. Being sure to involve others allows for the unveiling of any possible ethical or moral implications. This is important to the decision making process because it adds another layer to making decisions with a responsible mindset.

Unbiased decision-making is hard, including as many stakeholders as possible leads to the best outcome. (Tweet this)


5. What went well? What could be improved?

One of the most important parts of making a decision is circling back afterwards and reflecting on the successes and growth opportunities based on the outcome. A reliable process that considers the steps toward a solution as well as the intended and unintended outcomes of a decision allows for clear adjustments moving forward. By evaluating this, you are showing your district that you not only took the time to make a thoughtful decision, but that you are also able to reflect and make adjustments when necessary.

A key goal for any decision maker is to engage in a reflective process that includes exploring and making decisions, as well as reflecting after the decision has been made. By working through this process of using the questions above, you will do more than just make a responsible decision. You will also engage in a process that models for your district how to be a thoughtful leader.

Click here to download a free guide on the 5 steps towards responsible decision-making, to use in your district and share with your colleagues. Click me

Author: Scarlett Tannetta & Shawna Jensen

Posted: 20 Apr 2021

Estimated time to read: 4 mins

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