School’s Out – What’s Next? You Decide!

June 2016 Volume 3 Issue 6

The end of June brings the last day of school and months of new activities. Family members’ various opinions and schedules can bring complexity to even the most basic decisions. Fortunately, we have some Decision Support Techniques to help you with your summer planning!

We know making decisions is hard when they involve tradeoffs among competing goals, values, or preferences. Because of the limitations of short-term memory, we often struggle with making sure we have evaluated rigorously all the aspects of a problem before deciding what we will do. One way to deal with this challenge is to use simple decision-support techniques that lay out the options in graphic form so that you can evaluate the results of alternate solutions while keeping the problem as a whole in view. The technique you choose should depend on the type of problem you are confronting. In Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, we describe seven techniques that you can use at work, but just as easily at home. In fact, many of our students find that the techniques work surprisingly well when dealing with real time problems like which car to buy, how best to explain a new rule, or even whom to date!

Below are some everyday scenarios you may face this summer, paired with the tools that can help you make your decision.

Globalytica’s Decision Support Techniques

Decision Trees are a simple way to chart the range of available options, estimate the likelihood of each one, and weigh alternatives. Use this technique to chart various vacation activities.

The Decision Matrix is a simple but powerful device for making tradeoffs among conflicting goals or preferences. For example, if you are buying a car, the matrix can help you evaluate options such as gas efficiency and the number of safety features. The technique forces you to determine how to decide and sometimes surprises you when you see the outcome.

Pros-Cons-Faults-and-Fixes is a useful tool for critiquing new ideas. Most of us have made lists of Pros and Cons, but this technique takes the decision process one step further by asking you to also consider how one could “Fault the Pros” or “Fix the Cons.” You could use it to decide if it is worth upgrading your current home computer system.

Force Field Analysis helps you decide how to solve a problem or if it is even possible to do so. It can answer questions like “What will it take to get this new policy adopted?” or “Who do we need to lobby the most to accomplish our stated goals?” This summer, use this technique to help you convince your relatives to organize a family reunion at your choice of location.

If you have set an ambitious goal, but you are not sure if it can be achieved, use SWOT Analysis. This tool helps you develop a plan or strategy for achieving a goal by focusing on Strengths and Weaknesses of your organization along with the Opportunities and Threats in the external environment.

The Impact Matrix is used by leaders to figure out the most effective way to implement a new–and sometimes highly unpopular–policy in an organization by evaluating what impact it will have on all key actors before the new policy is announced. It is a good way to anticipate trouble before it is too late! Use the Impact Matrix to help you explain to potentially uncooperative family members why taking a cross-country road trip is more fun than flying.

The Complexity Manager provides a simple but rigorous approach for understanding highly complex problems. It helps uncover unintended consequences, assess chances for success, and identify opportunities for influencing the outcome of a decision. Use this tool to help you anticipate all the ways a wedding could go wrong or (preferably) right.