An Overview Of
Decision Making Models

Decisions! Decisions!

The many decision making models that exist nowadays means that you even have to make a decision as to which one to use! There are rational models, intuitive models, rational-iterative models as well as 5, 6, 7 and even 9 step decision models.

Most, however, move through each of the basic stages in decision making.

On this page we will quickly scan over the main points of some of these decision models so that you have a sense of what's available.

Some of these decision making models presuppose that decision making is the same as problem solving. Frequently, the first step in the decision making process is to identify the problem. I don't believe that every decision is solving a problem. For example, deciding whether you want dark chocolate or milk chocolate is not, in and of itself, a problem frame.

I also understand that for some people decision making can be a problem! But that does not mean that they are the same thing. So my descriptions and ideas below keep these things separate.

A brief explanation of decision making

Rational decision making models

Decision matrix analysis, Pugh matrix, SWOT analysis, Pareto analysis and decision trees are examples of rational models and you can read more about the most popular here.

This type of model is based around a cognitive judgement of the pros and cons of various options. It is organized around selecting the most logical and sensible alternative that will have the desired effect. Detailed analysis of alternatives and a comparative assessment of the advantages of each is the order of the day.

Rational decision models can be quite time consuming and often require a lot of preparation in terms of information gathering. The six step decision making process is a classic example in this category and you can read about the 9 step model here.

The Vroom-Jago decision model helps leaders decide how much involvement their teams and subordinates should have in the decision making process.

Try an online rational decision model for yourself.

Seven step decision making model

The seven step model was designed for choosing careers and may be classed as a rational decision making model. The seven steps are designed to firstly identify the frame of the decision. Based on the information available, alternatives are generated. Further information is then gathered about these alternatives in order to choose the best one.

But what happens when there's too much information? How do you separate the useful from the worthless? And then, of course, the world is changing so rapidly that the information is also changing rapidly. But waiting for things to stabilize may cause a delay in decision making which may, in turn, lead to missed opportunities.

Many think the way forward involves reharnessing the power of our intuition.


Intuitive decision making models

Some people consider these decisions to be unlikely coincidences, lucky guesses, or some kind of new-age hocus-pocus. Many universities are still only teaching rational decision models and suggest that if these are not used, failure results. Some researchers are even studying the logic behind the intuitive decision making models!

The groups who study intuitive decision models are realizing that it's not simply the opposite of rational decision making.

In military schools the rational, analytical models have historically been utilized. It is also long been recognized, however, that once the enemy is engaged the analytical model may do more harm than good. History is full of examples where battles have more often been lost by a leader's failure to make a decision than by his making a poor one.

"A good plan, executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week."

- General George S. Patton, Jr.

The military are educating the soldiers of every rank in how to make intuitive decisions. Information overload, lack of time and chaotic conditions are poor conditions for rational models. Instead of improving their rational decision making, the army has turned to intuitive decision models. Why? Because they work!

Recognition primed decision making model

Psychologist Dr. Gary Klein has been studying decision making for many years and he suggests that people actually use an intuitive approach 90% of the time. His recognition primed decision making model describes that in any situation there are cues or hints that allow people to recognise patterns. Obviously the more experience somebody has, the more patterns they will be able to recognise. Based on the pattern, the person chooses a particular course of action. They mentally rehearse it and if they think it will work, they do it.

If they don't think it will work, they choose another, and mentally rehearse that. As soon as they find one that they think will work, they do it. Again past experience and learning plays a big part here.

There is no actual comparison of choices, but rather a cycling through choices until an appropriate one is found.

Obviously people become better with this over time as they have more experiences and learn more patterns.

For more examples of decision models, you can read a long list here...

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