The funny thing about decision making is that we all have to do it, whether we want to or not. All of us, every day, are decision makers – making choices on all aspects of our lives – at home, at work, at the store.
My question to you is HOW are you making these decisions? Are you confident that you are using sound methodology? My bet is that many of you are (after all, you did decide to read this blog), but I would also bet that most of us can improve and become better decision makers.
One decision making system that I have been using with more and more frequency is called Choosing By Advantages, or CBA. It was developed in the late 1990s by Jim Suhr, who stresses the need to use sound methods, because, as he points out, unsound methods more frequently lead to unsound decisions. CBA teaches that all decisions should be based on the Importance of Advantages. As a decision maker, the system asks you to identify Factors that will be used to make the decision. Within each Factor, you then identify the Attributes possessed by each alternative, which in turn allows you to identify the Advantage that one alternative has over another. Ultimately, the decision is then made based on the Importance of each of those Advantages. I realize it can sound a little complicated (and to be honest, it can be for complex decisions), but it’s actually a simple, straightforward, step by step approach that can be used for almost any decision.
One thing that really hits home with me is how important it is to focus on the Advantages of one alternative over another, and only the Advantages. I often hear people talk about using pros and cons to make decisions. Unfortunately, that is not a sound method of making decisions. When you use pros (advantages) and cons (disadvantages) you are inherently double counting. Think about it…a disadvantage of one alternative is, by definition, the advantage of another alternative.
I was reminded recently about how useful and versatile this system can be after using it on two separate and very different occasions. One was a facilitated workshop for the National Park Service that included 15 different individuals representing 8 different entities who all needed to come together to make a decision about the design for exhibits to be installed at a very important National Park site. Choosing By Advantages provided a simple, straightforward process that brought the entire group to agreement on the Advantages one approach had over the others, and also allowed a framework to incorporate several improvements to the preferred alternative. The process led to an excellent solution that everyone agreed with, that could be clearly presented, even to those who didn’t participate in the decision making process.
The second occasion was a more personal decision about which vehicle to purchase for my own personal use. There were several key Factors to consider for my decision including gas mileage, reliability, style, and drivability (I really wanted something I would enjoy driving), among others. Using the CBA process was simple (it took me less than 20 minutes), the decision was sound, and I haven’t second guessed my decision once since purchasing my new car.
Think about it the next time you are facing a decision…what are the Advantages of one alternative over the other, and which of those Advantages is the most important?
To learn more, check out the book The Choosing By Advantages Decision Making System, by Jim Suhr, or feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.