I mentioned previously that I think decision making is a critical skill for any professional manager. In that post, I outlined my favorite decision method of paired and weighted rankings. In this post, I wanted to mention decision trees. Decision trees are a relatively easy (but rarely quick) tool for helping to sort out potential courses of action. Here’s a good overview page (actually, explore the whole Mind Tools site if this stuff interests you) for setting up decision trees. That page describes decision trees this way:
Decision Trees are excellent tools for helping you to choose between
several courses of action. They provide a highly effective structure
within which you can lay out options and investigate the possible
outcomes of choosing those options. They also help you to form a
balanced picture of the risks and rewards associated with each possible
course of action.
There are two books about decision making that have earned permanent status on my bookshelf, and which I evangelize at every chance. The first is called Smart Choices, the second is called The Thinker’s Toolkit. I know there are plenty of other books out there that cover the decision making territory, but these two have served me well.
Smart Choices is written by three university profs (John Hammond, Ralph Keeney and Howard Raiffa) who don’t come off sounding too academic. The book promotes the ‘PrOACT’ method of decision making. That is, problem, objectives, alternatives, consequences and trade-offs. You learn how to identify all these bits and then how to tie them together into a package that helps you recognize the risks inherent in your decision and helps you to understand what you’re giving up when you make your decision (trade-offs). As icing on the cake, the last chapter addresses linked decisions, which can get really messy unless you structure your analysis in a way that shines a light on all the elements. It’s a great book and worth multiple reads.
The Thinker’s Toolkit is written by a former CIA analyst (intrique!) and contains fourteen discrete methods of addressing decisions. The fourteen methods are addressed in the book in order from easiest to most complex (at least, that’s how it seems to me!). The thing I appreciated most about this book, aside from the tools it discusses, is the opportunity at the end of each chapter to apply the skills learned to a story problem. That approach really helped make the information stick in my mind.