| Decisions | Guidelines
Option | Opportunity Cost |
| Need | Values | Search | Compare| Select | Implement | Review | Change |
The decision-maker (DM) is ready to begin the search for alternatives only after 1) defining the needs hidden in the pending decision, 2) picking a default option, a choice the decision-maker can live with if they have trouble reaching a decision, and 3) a set of values (criteria) that will be used to select the best alternative. Good choices required good alternatives. Finding good alternatives require an intelligent search. But even before the decision-maker begins searching for good alternatives, they are advised to first complete the first two steps in the decision-making process (defining needs and values). Too often, a decision maker is so eager to begin the hunt for good choices that they start searching for alternatives premature without adequately knowing what specifically to look for. How can a decision-maker find good alternative if they haven't fully described the need or the desirable outcomes (criteria). Without knowing the unfulfilled needs and the criteria (values) for selection (to judge the soundness of the alternatives), the decision-maker has fewer clues as to where to look. "First things first" means finding out where you are going and knowing what you want to do when you get there. you can't plan a vacation until you decide where you want to go and what you want to do when you get there.
Once a want or need is defined, the next step is to decide what an ideal solution would look like. For example, suppose the decision-maker wants a new car. The decision-maker may have already jumped ahead to established a mental image of the types of cars they are considering to fill this want. Before getting too far ahead ahead of the process and starting prematurely to search for alternatives, the decision-maker should stop and answer the question of why they want a new car. What features are important to them and which ones aren't important? Is safety important? What about gas mileage and maintenance? Is price important? How about style, performance, handling?
By first defining the criteria of the ideal car, the decision-maker can tailor his search more intelligently. Once an ideal alternative is defined (one that scores best on all the criteria), now the decision-maker will know what to look for. Thus, instead of attempting to find alternatives directly to satisfy perceived wants and needs, the decision-maker is advised to define an ideal solution to satisfying a need and then search for a real-world solutions that are as close to the ideal as possible. So, a decision-maker who wants a stylish sports car will search for alternatives differently than a decision-maker who wants a safe, economy car. Knowing what features satisfy the decision-maker's personal needs makes the search more effective and efficient.
Once alternatives are gathered, the DM can now measure each alternative on each criteria to determine the best choice. How this is done will be discussed on the compare web page. The important point on this page regarding an intelligent search for good alternatives is that the decision-maker should approach the pending decision one-step at a time, beginning with a statement of the decision (I want to a new car) and the desired features (criteria) of an ideal choice (two-seater, sport car, convertible, mid-price range, and red color). With this information, the decision-maker is better able to search and find choices that meet these criteria.
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Copyright ©2005 Charles W. Sooter. All rights reserved.