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Decision Making – Part 2: Strategies and Tactics

Decision Making – Part 2: Strategies and Tactics



Hello again, Dear Reader. Today I will continue to discuss last week’s topic, decision making. A cursory review of the literature and definitions were presented, along with the notion of uncertainty and how it effects decision making. Given that our choices effect our lives, our decision making skills are vital to our success as human beings. For this installment, strategies and tactics will be addressed with regards to the improvement of problem solving abilities. Let’s take a closer look.

Clearly many researchers have acknowledged the impact of ambiguity on decision making. Elucidation is derived from these studies and ultimately lead to other research questions. Scholars began to delve into the concept that strategies and tactics could be developed and learned that may facilitate decision making.

Snowman (1986,1987) discussed the components of learning and determined that certain strategies and tactics could be taught to improve one’s learning ability. At the cutting edge of this research, Snowman defined the differences between strategies and tactics. In doing so, he pioneered research that eventually lead to the development of learning strategies/tactics to accomplish goals delineated within these strategies.

Snowman defined a strategy as a broad plan that is structured, which may contain complex operational patterns and activities. Once a strategy is developed, tactics are the means to success in carrying out the plan. That is, tactics involve the specific actions required to ensure that objectives are accomplished.

Thus, one may develop a strategy to improve decision making via specific tactics relating to an overall strategic plan. We can systematically learn to construct strategies and tactics that can improve problem solving skills and learning potential. The tactics we use must be meaningful to us, and must be a part of a strategic plan to address solving a specific problem. Through this method, one can improve decision making skills.

Snowman warns that tactics should not be taught or learned in isolation. This approach does not lend itself to making real-life connections. Conversely, when tactics are taught/learned as components of a strategic plan, transfer of knowledge to other issues can more easily take place. Thus, when other similar problems arise, one might apply an already tried and true strategy thereby improving decision making.

Learning Strategies:

The components of an effective learning strategy consists of six variables designed to improve ones learning, and thus improving one’s decision making skills. The six components are as follows:

  • Metacognition – As discussed previously within these articles, metacognition is one’s self awareness pertaining to how we think, what kind of learner we are and how to approach problem solving. By learning how we think, we can learn to be better decision makers. Better decision makers are obviously better at solving complex problems and applying tactics to every day issues.
  • Analysis – As learners, we must analyze the problem at hand in order to glean key factors involved. By asking “Wh” questions, one can more easily identify the pertinent factors (what, when, where), subsequently understand the nature of a problem (why), identify personal learning attributes (who) and ultimately use tactics (how) to make better decisions.
  • Planning – Once items 1 and 2 are accomplished, one must develop a strategic plan by answering the following questions and forming hypotheticals:
  • What is the nature of the problem?
  • What do I already know about the problem?
  • What is the timeframe in which to solve the issue?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses in facing the problem?
  • Implementation – Once a plan is devised, each component must be implemented skillfully and with fidelity. As Snowman warned, “A careful analysis and a well conceived plan will not work if tactics are carried out poorly.”
  • Monitor of progress – For strategic decision making, a learner must assess the success, or lack there of, of their chosen tactics. This can be accomplished through self questioning in terms of what is and isn’t working.
  • Modification – If we determine that our strategic plan is working, then no change is required. However, if decision making is unsuccessful, one must re-evaluate and modify, possibly both the strategic plan and the tactics implemented.


With the awareness that parameters change as our environment changes, and that new information supplants old notions, then it logically follows that our skills in decision making can change drastically through the course of a lifetime. Consequently, re-evaluation and revision of our life strategies and tactics are necessary. Snowman notes, “The true strategist,…exhibits a characteristic that is now commonly referred to as mindfulness (Alexander, Graham & Harris, 1998).”

As we have discussed previously in these articles, a mindful learner is aware of the need to be strategic and takes notes of elements effecting the decision to be made. Furthermore, a strategic thinker uses personal assets as a means to the best end/solution. This requires that strategies and tactics are tailored to fit each specific problem.



Research indicates that the development of strategies and tactics when problem solving can improve decision making skills. Through the notion of metacognition, we can discover what kind of leaner we are, ie., how we learn best. We can then apply that knowledge to conceive of a strategic plan, as well as the necessary tactics to carry out that plan. By self questioning (“Wh” questions) we analyze the issue at hand and devise a problem solving strategy. Finally, by using a metacognitive approach, one may improve decision making abilities.

For next time, part 3 of this series on decision making, we will review steps to improve strategic decision making. Please feel free to leave comments and/or questions with regards to these concepts. Until then, Dear Reader…stay safe and healthy out there!




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