Last month I shared a Reading Room post about Decision Making; it was a series of links to popular methodologies for making decisions.

A reader question requested some more information on these methods in action. Ryan Williams is the president of Websuasion, an app development company, and he asked:

Thanks for this breakdown, Rebecca. Our application development clients often have major technical decisions to make based on budget, market desire, integration options, etc. I would love to see in a future post some illustration of how these various assessments can help clarify and expedite such decisions.

Ryan raises an important point: that each decision is actually a series of many decisions, everything that affects and is affected by, the new idea. And these must be considered both in isolation, as well as against each other. A sort of “if this then what” consideration.

A summarized response to this is as follows: each major decision happens in two stages.

Upfront considerations

These are your anchors, your stakes in the ground: the guiding principles against which your evaluations are made.

Any decision made for your business is ultimately – and whether directly or indirectly – about the bottom line. To ensure you stay focused on the right things, you have to select certain fundamentals. Before any brainstorming or decision making effort, you must establish:

  1. Your goals. Where does the company want to be, how does it want to be known, why is that important, etc. This addresses your mission, your vision and your brand identity.
  2. Your resources. You must know what you have available, as well as where your stretch zones are. What can be sacrificed to the benefit of what else.
  3. Your competition. By this I mean your competitive environment, not necessarily your direct product competitors. This will be a better guide to client preferences and to market threats than trying to just determine new audience trends.

Option Considerations

With these points well discussed and established, your decision making brainstorming and process will remain on course.

At this point you can begin the actual work of discovering and evaluating the options available to you.

Which tool or method should you choose? I am a fan of combining the best of all available worlds, to create a method that works for you. This is what I did in creating my own [shameless plug alert] decision making framework. You can see it discussed in my NCR Silver blog post as well.

For example, I believe both the Pareto and PEST analyses can serve a purpose in part one – the upfront considerations part of the exercise.

Once you move into part 2, a decision making tree is an effective way to map – quite literally, on a visual tree – the various options and consequences that may present themselves. After which a paired comparison analysis is an effective way to evaluate the pros and cons, so to speak, of each option.

If I were pressed to share one fundamental rule of option evaluation, I would have to say the balance of qualitative and quantitative analysis. If you only use the former, you run a high risk of misaligned considerations as you work along. With the latter in isolation, you remove the opportunity to discuss the subjective and intuitive parts of the discussion, both of which play a valuable role.