Reactive Decision Making – An Analysis

decision making concept on blackboard


When people encounter danger they react in an impulsive way. In these situations, the best decisions are those that come after a lot of thinking. A rigorous pre-planning helps in dealing with situations that occur accidentally. For instance, a pre-planned evacuation scheme for fire drill helps in dealing with an accidental fire attack. In this article, will discuss about reactive decision making and how it helps to make better decisions.


A normal decision making method consists of the following steps.

  • Describing the problem
  • Gathering information
  • Creating a plan
  • Implementing the plan
  • Following-up after the plan is executed

Reactive decision making leads to bad decisions because the decision maker is under tremendous pressure to make a fruitful decision in a limited time period.

  • Actions taken in emergency should be planned from before, so that the professional can make proper decisions. This problem may arise when the office premises get burgled and the company is working to meet a tight deadline.
  • In case of career advancement reactive decision making may be quite hazardous. In some cases, reactive decisions are made to satisfy the immediate grounds of requirement. That may not always be fruitful in the long run.

Reactive Decision Making in Exceptional Situations

When involved in making decisions in an exceptional case, the professional should at first observe the risk and realize the chances taking place.

  • This can be done by using the Risk Assessment Matrix. The matrix is created by drawing a graph with a horizontal axis marked ‘probability’ and a vertical axis marked ‘consequences.’
  • The scale should run from 0 to 5 where 0 equals very small and 5 equals very large. While probabilities are assessments that state individual consequences will take place, consequences are worst outcomes that might take place.
  • The decision maker now has to think about all the consequences she has to face and then asses the risk she has to encounter thereafter. She can also base the risk assessment on real life experience.
  • Then she should plot them on the Risk Assessment Matrix. She will realize that as she draws them on the matrix, her priorities for contingency planning become clear.
  • She should, however, remember that the matrix is a useful device to look at the comparative significance of each risk. As a result, planning is better thought out when decision making becomes reactive.

However, in the absence of a plan, one cannot rely on the use of a Risk Assessment Matrix. In such circumstances, she has to make use of proper reasoning that is based on the most appropriate result.

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Making Sudden Decision when Under Pressure

  • If a team leader suddenly quits her job, the company and the project will be in big trouble. Her action has a great impact on the future of the company. In the light of the event the management has to make a quick reactive decision that saves the company and the project from further jeopardy. The reactive decision is made on the basis of risks that are perceived to take place and the consequences that are perceived to occur.
  • In this case, the management can re-assign the tasks in the team, so that the work left incomplete by the team leader is completed by rest of the team. The management can also appoint a new team leader. The management has to keep in mind the profits of the company, goodwill, risks, consequences and last but not the least interests of all those who are involved in the project. In this case, the authorities in the company cannot achieve the exact outcome they desire. The maximum they can do is control damage.

Decision Processing in an Automatic Way

It is not possible to stop accidental events, such as a manager leaving a company in the middle of an assignment, from occurring because there is nothing called zero risk. However, the possibility of risk can be decreased. The following techniques can help in reducing risk.

  • First of all, the decision maker should take up and apply some preventive measures. Some common preventive measures are hiring good drivers for tourist buses, having legal and financial documents for a business ready, getting effective antivirus for internet, etc. This does not stop the risk from occurring, but checks its possibility of occurring.
  • She should then plan for the most appropriate emergency outlet depending upon the assessment of risk.
  • Once an accident occurs, people are frightened. In such a situation, the best plans cannot be applied because people are emotionally blocked to use them. This indicates the fact that the decision maker has to build a series of automatic decisions that everyone can pursue without thinking much about it.
  • These are automatic processes which help people in acting without worrying about consequences. This way, things will turn easier and the level of risk will be reduced.

However, in a person’s career automatic reactive decision may not always be useful. For example, if a professional is failing to succeed in her work repeatedly, she should try to change her mindset and not follow the same mindset. It is an automatic reactive decision making process which is not allowing her to succeed. For instance, if a professional constantly works under pressure and fear, she makes disastrous and ineffective decisions reactively. Even if she makes changes to her approach, she might not succeed. This is because she is under tremendous pressure and is afraid that she might be fired from the company if she gets wrong. Thus, she should change her mindset and not follow an automatic reactive system.

To Wrap Up

From this article, it can be deduced that in certain cases, decision makers have to make reactive decisions. However, if they asses risks and their consequences beforehand and plan accordingly, the actual risk can be reduced to a great extent. In some cases, people are not prepared and they are bound to make reactive decisions for which, they have no prior planning.

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