Decision Analysis: Models & Tools

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  • 0:04 Decision Analysis…
  • 1:04 Decision-Making Models
  • 2:04 Example of Applying…
  • 3:39 Decision Analysis Tools
  • 6:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Each day we make important decisions, personally and professionally. Often we use decision-making tools without even realizing it. In this lesson, we'll discuss some important models and tools that we can use to improve our decision-making process.

Decision Analysis Models and Tools

Each day we make decisions; some insignificant and some that require much of our thought and attention. Maybe we need to choose between pizza or a salad for lunch. At work, maybe we need to decide which employee will be the chair of an important upcoming project.

For complex decisions, it is often helpful to have tools to organize your thoughts and prioritize your considerations. It is also important to have a model that you can use to be comprehensive as you go through the steps of decision making, especially in situations where your decision will impact a number of stakeholders.

There is an important distinction between decision-making models and decision-making tools. Decision-making models provide a framework to follow as you collect, process, and apply information and evidence to your decision. Decision-making tools are designed to help you collect the evidence, process the information, and identify the best way to make your decision.

Decision-Making Models

There are many different decision-making models, most of them presented as a process with four to seven steps. Some of these models are based on a single individual making the decision while others focus on a group making a decision or being involved in organizing and providing feedback to the decision maker.

The most common decision-making models can be summarized in five basic steps:

  1. Identify the decision to be made
  2. Brainstorm possible options
  3. Consider the cost and benefit of options
  4. Make the decision and commit, with necessary buy-in
  5. Put the decision into practice

Each of these is an important step in any decision-making model. While some may seem so obvious that they don't warrant specific attention, that is simply not true. A quick example will help highlight why each step is so important.

Example of Applying the Decision Model

Renee, an HR manager for a midsize company, is asked to work with Brian, the director of a warehouse, to improve his operation. He currently has a disruptive culture in the workplace. Brian tells Renee one of his first action items: 'I need to promote one of my area supervisors to distribution manager. Choosing who to promote is a tough decision.'

Think about that statement by Brian. What did he do in that simple statement (a very likely statement and one that Renee could easily agree with and support)? In that one statement, he brushed over steps one and two of a good decision-making model. He identified the decision and the options with little, if any, specific attention.

If culture is a potential issue, does he need a distribution manager, or should a reorganization be considered? If he does need a new manager, are the only options his current supervisors, or should he look outside? In making decisions, relying too closely on past choices made can actually be the most significant hindrance to a good decision.

Considering the cost/benefits, making and implementing the decision (which are steps three, four, and five) become much more clearly defined when steps one and two are carefully considered. So, always be aware that each decision you make should be approached as a new decision. We can learn from past decisions, but they do not need to dictate how we make new decisions.

Decision Analysis Tools

Because the steps of decision-making are so important, helpful tools have been developed to ensure that we consciously go through each step. Two of these tools are the decision matrix and silent brainstorming.

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