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Why Decision-Making Methods Matter?

by Dr. Paz Arroyo

31st May 2015

Among the most important of all the decisions the world's people will ever make are their decisions about how to make decisions.

Have you ever thought about what method you used for decision-making? Probably not, but you probably have asked yourself whether or not you have made a good decision. Well, the two questions are related. We can never be 100% sure we have made a good decision, but we can make sure that we follow a good decision-making method and do the best with the available information.

A good decision-making method can increase the chances of arriving at the best decision. The following phrase summarizes the importance of our decision-making method:

“Among the most important of all the decisions the world's people will ever make are their decisions about how to make decisions, because their decisions about how to make decisions will strongly influence all the other decisions they will ever make. Furthermore, human performance — including organizational performance — is a decision-making process. Therefore, by improving the way they make decisions, the world's people will be able to make substantial improvements in both individual and organizational performance. And this will improve their quality of life.” (Jim Suhr)

Most people understand that decisions will lead to actions and that actions will have outcomes and consequences. However, most people do not realize that they are missing and important piece in this chain: the decision-making method. Decision-making methods produce decisions, decisions trigger actions, and finally, actions cause outcomes. Consequently, if the outcomes matter, then the selection of decision-making methods should also matter (Suhr 1999).

Research has proven that the selection of decision-making methods does matter. In fact, using different decision-making methods with the same information may lead to different outcomes. The selection of a decision-making method is very important; therefore it should not be left to chance.

Recent research has demonstrated that not all decision-making methods are the same. There are characteristics that make a method viable for collaborative group decision-making, which often occur in business and on projects. These characteristics include: (1) consistency, (2) transparency, (3) anchoring the decision to the relevant context and data, (4) preventing double counting information, (5) providing a means for reaching consensus, (6) being able to document the decision, (7) and being able to easily explain and communicate the decision with other stakeholders.

Now, think of an important decision that you have made recently. Which decision-making method did you use? Did your decision-making method have the characteristics of a good decision-making method?


Dr. Paz Arroyo completed her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley studying group decision-making methods. She has published numerous peer-review articles in some of the top research conferences and journals. She has a forth coming book on how to make decisions that support sustainable building design and is currently an assistant professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

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