11 Decision-Making Techniques

Making decisions can be a difficult task to complete. In some situations, the choice you make can have life-altering effects, maybe for you, perhaps for other people. You shouldn’t make big decisions without examining all the options. But you shouldn’t take a long time making a decision either. Try these decision-making techniques the next time you’re stuck trying to decide.

When Could You Use Decision-Making Techniques?

Some people hate having to make up their minds. They take a back seat and let those around them make all the decisions. There’s nothing wrong with letting others lead. But in life, there will be a lot of times when the decision making is up to you.

In the workplace, if you are a leader, you will be responsible for most of the decisions. They pick how to divide the assignments up among the team. They have to complete employee assessments and decide which employees are an asset and deserve to be rewarded, and what employees might not be doing their job correctly and need to be released.

As parents, you make constant decisions for your family – until your children get old enough to argue about the annoying things you want them to do. Enjoy your family vacations and yearly traditions while you can. Once kids get into double digits, they become like the law – everything you say can and will be used against you.

And most men will be familiar with trying to get their female companions to decide on food. Throughout time, women have used the same response. “I don’t know.” Yet, most of the time, when men make a suggestion, they’ll respond with, “No. I don’t want that.” You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Why Use Decision-Making Techniques?

It can be difficult knowing that the decisions you make will affect other people. If you’re the boss and you have to lay off an employee, you can feel mixed emotions. True, maybe the employee wasn’t right for their job. But because of you, they no longer have an income. They could lose everything if they aren’t able to find a new place of employment.

Some people experience mind-numbing fear when it comes time for them to decide something.

It can be scary knowing that what you pick can change the course of your life. Stop for a minute and think of how many hard decisions you’ve made in your life. Now, think about one time when things would have been different if you had chosen a different path.

And sometimes, the decision you choose might turn out not to be the right one. Maybe you made a rash decision without thinking of all the different sides. Or perhaps you thought of the various possibilities, but things aren’t the way you pictured them.

You make decisions all day, every day, whether you realize it or not. These small choices may not seem like much, but one slight deviation has the power to affect an entire lifetime. But when you’re faced with the task of making a big decision, you want to make sure you’re well informed. That’s where decision-making techniques

How are Decision-Making Techniques Useful?

Before you make a huge decision, you’re likely going to compare the different options to figure out which choice is better. Sure, that new promotion will come with a nice pay raise, but it means moving to a new place you’ve never been to and where you don’t know anyone. Worse yet, your boyfriend has informed you that he won’t go if you take the job. You’ll be all alone.

Now, you have to decide if career advancement is worth giving up your entire life and starting over somewhere new. Some people will go with the job, even though it means being alone and giving up a personal relationship they’ve invested a lot of time in. Other people will turn the job down and continue living their current life, complete with the same position, relationship, friends, and home.

Do you know which option you would choose? When you’re facing a decision as big as this, you wouldn’t want to go with an instant decision. Even if this is your dream job, you’d want to think things through. Life can get lonely when you’re by yourself. If you’re not good at socializing, you could end up having trouble settling into a new life where strangers surround you.

Decision-Making Techniques Make Things Easier

Using decision-making techniques lets you analyze your different options in an organized layout. You can see the hard facts laid out side by side for easy comparison. You don’t just write down the various options, but you include all the relevant facts of each option. By having everything right there in black and white, you’re making it easier to make a decision.

When you’re comparing decisions, you want to include the good points, the bad points, and things that you don’t know enough about to categorize them. It’s a great idea to research these unfamiliar points so you’ll see whether they can go under benefits or problems.

Organizing the facts into a written format takes out some of the emotions. Deciding while emotional is never a good idea. If you’re thrilled about the idea of having a wedding, you might make the mistake of saying yes when your boyfriend proposes. You ignore the fact that you have a rocky relationship or that you haven’t known each other very long.

Types of Decision-Making Techniques

There are plenty of ways that you could organize your ideas so you can make better decisions. You could just grab a piece of paper and start jotting down your thoughts about the upcoming choice. Don’t try to control the way your ideas come. Just write down everything that occurs in your mind.

When you give your mind free control to do its own thing, you can end up learning things you weren’t aware you were concerned about. A lot of times, we convince ourselves of something while completely ignoring other aspects that we should consider.

If random jottings aren’t your style, you could use decision-making techniques. The method you choose isn’t necessary. What matters is that you decide something promptly and that you picked the best choice out of your options.


One technique you could use to organize your thoughts is called a T-Chart. You’re going to make a list of each of your options. Then you’re going to fill in the facts about these choices. This format uses a chart design like the one below. You can use this option for yes/no, either/or, and two-option decisions.

For this chart, P stands for Pro, C stands for Con, and U stands for Undecided.

Option 1 (Stay at Current Job) Option 2 (Relocate)
Established relationships with coworkers (P) Better pay (P)
Same location (U) New city (U)
Same pay (C) Don’t know anyone (C)
No moving (P) Have to move (C)


You could use Excel or Google Sheets to fill out this chart or just draw one on a piece of paper. If you want to save time, don’t even make a full chart. Just have a line that separates the two categories. Once you’ve filled this list out, tally up the score. Whichever option has a higher score will most likely be the right choice for you.

Take your time filling out your chart. Don’t make a decision right after figuring out the score. Give yourself a few days to sleep on the situation. Continue adding things to your chart as you keep thinking about the situation and all the different possibilities.


Another method to use is called PMI, which means plus, minus, and interesting. This technique is useful for decisions that are yes/no, either/or situations where you’re weighing two options against each other for the best solution. Should you accept that college offer or say no since you want the other one instead?

In this method, you’re going to consider the change you’re deciding on. Make out a three-column chart divided into Pluses, Minuses, and Interesting. Write down all the good things in the plus column. In the minus column, list all your negative opinions. And in the interesting column, you’ll have factors that don’t matter.

Accepting Scholarship to State College

Plus Minus Interesting
Friends are going Not my first pick of school Large campus
Close to parents Close to parents Free laundry and food
Good class choices Doesn’t have known staff Favorite author went here
Cheaper tuition Higher dorm rooms Cool mascot and team colors
Good school reputation Bad sports team Lots of social groups


You can also do this chart for your current situation or another choice (i.e., waiting on the other college acceptance, which might not come). What I like about this chart is that by using the interesting list, you can come up with more pros or cons. Research these unsure factors further and see if they might be able to play a factor in your decision making.

In the example, we have free food and laundry listed under the interesting category. But when you do more research, you might realize how much money you’ll need at the other school compared to this choice. With your heavy course load, it would be challenging to juggle a job and school. So, free food and laundry is a plus because it means you won’t need as much cash.

Buridan’s Donkey

If you’ve ever taken a philosophy class or watched “The Big Bang Theory” on television, you might know of the concept of Buridan’s Ass. This paradox, explained initially by Aristotle but made famous by Jean Buridan, claims that if you place a hungry donkey (known for their stubbornness and is called an ass – hence the name) at equal distances between two identical bales of hay, he’ll starve to death before he can make a decision.

This paradox is meant to signify the use of free will. When you refuse to make a decision, you can end up with neither choice. But making a decision when you have two equally appealing options can be difficult. You feel torn between the two and might make a snap decision because you’ve procrastinated so long.

My boyfriend likes to tell me that if it were left up to me to decide where to eat, we’d both starve to death. And some days, it’s possible that might be the case. I hate making decisions because I focus too hard on all the different options for each choice I’m considering.

Focus on the Negative

When you’re forced into a Buridan’s Ass situation, ignore all the positive aspects of the case. Glitter and glam can trick you into thinking something is more appealing than it is. Instead, focus on the negative sides of a situation.

When all you look at is negative things, you’re not getting distracted by all the stuff you like. Instead, you’re getting a good look at how things will be. It’s better to have realistic expectations, including knowing where things won’t be peachy. Otherwise, you’re in for a shock if you make a decision based on the right sides, and they’re not all you thought they were.

Measured Criteria

When you’re faced with making a decision, and there’s multiple choices, you could find yourself overwhelmed. There are a ton of factors to consider, and you might not know where to start. You could make a pros and cons list for each choice, but boy would that be a lot of work.

You could narrow it down to two choices and then do your pros and cons. But this could cause you to dismiss an option that might be the best of the bunch. When you’re faced with multiple solutions, it helps to create a decision matrix.

Criteria Points possible Dairy Queen Sonic McDonald’s
Taste 5 5 4 3
Speed 5 4 3 2
Options 5 4 5 4
Cost 5 2 2 4
Total 20 15 14 13


In this graph, I’m demonstrating how to decide between three fast-food restaurants for my lunch. I picked out critical criteria I expect each place to have and provided a score for top points possible.

A one means the lowest points possible. Five is the best score. This method works on any situation where you have more than two options to choose from. You can use a ranking of any number you prefer and set the criteria for whatever you need. By scoring each option compared to how it meets your criteria, you’re making an educated decision.

How to Manage Group Decision Making

There might be times when you have to work as part of a group to make decisions. When you involve more than one person into a decision, things can get tricky. Conflicts can arise if things aren’t handled properly. Feelings can get hurt if someone’s opinions are ignored or insulted. Things can quickly get out of hand, and decisions, or the wrong ones, will be made.

When it comes to making group decisions, it helps to have a team leader or mediator to keep things in line. This person is in charge of making sure that the group communicates effectively and works together to come up with a solution. If needed, the mediator settles disputes and conducts conflict management.

Managers also keep the group on schedule. If not appropriately managed, groups can veer off course and end up squabbling about unimportant things. The company could end up paying fees for the extra time the team has to spend getting things done because they aren’t staying on task and making decisions about the important stuff.

Group Decision Making Techniques

There are many different ways that people decide to manage group decisions. You may choose to use majority vote wins, which means that the option with the most picks will be the final decision. Or you might go with a dictatorship, where the team leader makes the final decision, and no one else gets a vote. These group decision-making techniques can work for any situation.

Start with Small Decisions

When a group is responsible for making decisions, everyone must participate. You want to make sure that everyone agrees on the option they’re voting on. Some people might decide to support an idea just because everyone else does. This phenomenon is referred to as the Abilene Paradox.

Before you get down to deciding the big topics, give the group some practice by making small decisions. You could let them decide on how long and how often you take breaks. Would they rather have three fifteen-minute breaks or one fifteen-minute break and a more extended thirty-minute break? Where will you order lunch from?

Continue with small decisions throughout the meeting so the group can practice making decisions together. Encourage every member to offer feedback about each option. Don’t let them slide with a “That’s fine” or “It doesn’t matter.” Members should be sure about the decisions they’re making at all times.

Decide Criteria for Final Decision

It can be challenging to make the right decision if you’re not clear on what goals you need the decision to meet. Before you get down to letting the team propose their ideas for the team to decide on, set aside an allotted amount of time for the group to figure out what needs they’re hoping to fulfill with the final decision.

Give everyone an equal opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions. Make sure everyone is clear and in agreement on what the criteria are going to be. These should be written down and kept on prominent display throughout the meeting for the group to refer to as they discuss their choices.

Encourage the group to think outside the box. When you keep narrow criteria, you can box yourself into ideas that are all replicas of each other. Naturally, if everything is similar, you’ll have a harder time making a decision. And there might be essential areas that no one addressed in their proposals.

Multiple Voting

When you have a big selection of options to choose from, it can be challenging to get everyone to agree on a final decision. One way to reduce the chances of this happening is to repeatedly eliminate options until you have a manageable amount – typically two or three.

In this process, you start with the entire list of options and a list of the group’s agreed-upon criteria. You might have to use your client’s needs instead of the group’s standards. Once you know what you’re looking for in your final decision, you start to remove options.

Any selection that doesn’t automatically match the criteria is instantly removed from the list. With the revised list, the voting begins. Assign each remaining choice with a number. Each member needs to choose a few different proposals.

The results are tallied, and the projects with the highest votes will go on for continued discussion. As the conversation continues, more options are eliminated until everyone agrees on the final choice; or until a final round of voting has been completed.

Modified Borda Count

The modified Borda count method is similar to the one we just explained. The group will vote on their final decisions after every option has been presented. However, instead of selecting just an idea, they get several picks for their favorite choices.

Let’s say there will be ten ideas presented. Each member of the group has three votes they can use on the plans. But for each idea they choose, they will score the value of one to three. The idea they think is the best will get the top score. And then two and one will be given to the less favorite choices.

Scores should be based on how well each idea meets the criteria, which was decided before the voting began. Once all plans have been presented and scored, you tally up the votes. The approach most voted for will be your winner.

Hartnett’s CODM Model

For this technique, the top pick is chosen by majority vote. You want to try and get as many people as you can to agree to the same ballot so that they are all in consensus. CODM stands for consensus-oriented decision making.

This method is simple to do. There are seven steps the group must go through to complete the technique. It requires a lot of discussions, so your team members must get along and know how to communicate effectively together.

  • Step 1: Figure out the problem.
  • Step 2: Have an open discussion about the issues
  • Step 3: Figure out what concerns there are that the solution needs to address
  • Step 4: Pitch ideas
  • Step 5: Decide which direction the group should go and start eliminating proposals that don’t work
  • Step 6: Decide on the final method you’ll use
  • Step 7: Finalize decision, take steps to put the chosen plan in action

Bain’s RAPID Framework

To keep too many cooks out of the kitchen, so to speak, you can use the technique called RAPID framework. This method allows you to figure out how to divide a project up among the group. RAPID is an acronym that stands for:

  • Recommend
  • Agree
  • Perform
  • Input
  • Decide

The first thing you need to have is your leader. Without someone to monitor the group decision-making, you can have chaos. If there hasn’t been a leader assigned, let the group vote on who would be the best fit. Some people are natural managers. They know how to organize and stay on task. They can manage the group without taking sides or being unfair.

When using the RAPID framework, the leader (or a few people who have been chosen to come up with ideas) makes a recommendation – R. The recommendation(s) will be the starting point of your discussion. The group doesn’t have to agree with the idea. It’s just a starting point for the group to start communicating.

The group needs to agree (“A”) about the plan of action. This may require a lot of discussions and shifting to make it satisfactory for everyone. Once the plan has been decided, you move into the third phase – P. Now, it’s time for everyone to start performing their tasks so the job can get completed.

While the process is going, the team will still need new information. It helps to have team members assigned to help collect the appropriate data. These people are responsible for making sure that all the information given is useful to the project and accurate.

Once everything has been figured out, it’s time to make decisions – D. The decision phase of this method is when the final decision has been made regarding the project. Everyone knows their roles. All the criteria have been decided. And a plan has been formed.

Decision-Making Techniques Make Things Easier

Being able to make decisions is a crucial life skill. Each day, you make choices. Some are easy and require little thought, like what you’re going to wear, what music to listen to on your way to work, or what to have for dinner. But other decisions might require a lot of effort or force you to work with a group. Using decision-making techniques can help you make choices easier, faster, and better.

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