What is decision quality?

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Decision Quality

We make thousands of decisions every single day. The decisions we face relate to an almost infinite range issues and level of complexity. We are more frequently required to make decisions in an uncertain and unpredictable world. However, despite this, very few are trained in decision making, and many are not familiar with the decision tools and science that underpins the decision process. As a result poor decision making is a very common and many decisions we make may be classed as sub-optimal decisions. We frame incorrectly, introduce or have inherent biases, poor or incorrect assumptions affect the process and we may be guilty of irrational thinking and analysis. Or more commonly we may be subject to issue or option advocacy – where we are sold the option or alternative.

We need a framework or process

So we can see that by poor framing or bias, we don’t consider all the alternatives and subsequently leave value on the table. We do not address and manage risk or understand the uncertainty surrounding the decision. Subsequently we leave value on the table. While decision making science and analysis tools and techniques are being considered – we need to address the quality of the decisions – we need a framework or process that will make the process transparent and be the honest broker in decision making.

DQ is such a framework that can address: framing, de-biasing, analysis of alternatives and ions, consolidate the strength of knowledge and information, values and trade-offs, reasoning and rationality, commitment to action. This framework proposed captures the quality of decisions, with the evidence that all decisions share six common elements which are described below. These elements allow us to assess and address decision quality while and governance or review of the process and ability to ask some pertinent questions during the decision process! The decision quality framework will not only help us succeed in making good decisions and by fulfilling the requirements of decision quality we can make the process easier and ensure that we are making good decisions in an uncertain and complex world – governance and assurance will be achieved. If things change we can revisit, update, justify or change the decision.

DQ Chain Green2

The DQ process

The DQ process: Ask yourself not what should we do, but what could we do – and to achieve this we: need to frame this properly, have a good set of alternatives, ask if there are other options, what information do we have, what do we need, how can we get it? Start with framing and work around the links. The DQ is only as strong as the weakest link! But if implemented correctly it will result in a deliberate, rational and transparent process – ensuring the quality decisions, good governance and process assurance.

  1. Frame – The purpose, scope of the decision and our perspective. What is it we are deciding? We can frame broadly or narrowly and also determine what we are not deciding!
  2. Alternatives – From proper framing, we can then move beyond what we should do, but now consider what we could do. Develop a range of choices within the context of the framing. Multiple alternatives must exist to make a choice. Explaining the options and what we can do. A good decision is the best alternative. Be creative, different, have a broad range but be reasonable, feasible and manageable. But watch out for advocacy or limited option traps. Ask ourselves: What are our choices?
  3. Information - In the absence of information a decision makers will be indifferent between alternatives. Also we may be missing information or this information is not reliable or relevant. Decisions are about the future which will be uncertain and complex. Need to be rigorous and unbiased. Ask ourselves: What do we know (and equally what don’t we know).
  4. Values and trade-offs – This step describes what we are hoping to achieve with our choice/decision. The objective the decision maker is trying to maximise but we may not be able to satisfy all the objectives and that is where we need to consider trade-offs. Ask ourselves: What consequences do we really care about?
  5. Reasoning – So now we understand what we value, what we can do and what we know we need to evaluate what we care about. A decision maker must be able to articulate his or her preferences. This step addresses uncertainty and complexity. This is not solved by intuition or experience. It is evaluated to give the best value. Watch out for the advocacy or approval traps. We need to ask ourselves: Are we are thinking straight about this?
  6. Commitment to action - Contemplating different choices is fundamentally different from making a commitment and to take forward one of the alternatives. So after selecting the best alternative we must implement or take action. Ask ourselves: Will we take action?

Decision Quality is a framework that explicitly recognises these six elements. Project teams should recognise the six DQ elements, structure their work around them and check whether all DQ elements have been explored at the time a decision is to be made. The DQ elements are often visualised as links in a chain symbolising that a decision is only as good as its weakest link, i.e. the decision element of the poorest quality.

Decision Quality