9 Step Decision Making Model

What is it?

The 9 step decision making model is proposed by David Welsh in his book 'Decisions, Decisions'.

He calls it a subjective expected utility maximisation process. A utility, he explains, is a technical term used by economists and philosophers to indicate happiness, pleasure or satisfaction.

Subjective indicates that it's your pleasure, and expected because it is satisfaction or pleasure that you don't yet have, but hope to get.

He suggests that SEU maximisation is the ideal. Using the 9 step decision making model allows you to consistently aim to maximise your pleasure, and will be better for you in the long run than making decisions in any other way.

The 9 step decision making model

  • Step 1 - Identify your objective

    What is it you wish to achieve?


  • Step 2 - Do a preliminary survey of your options

    Besides the most obvious choices available to you, what other kinds of options can you think of?


  • Step 3 - Identify the implicated values

    What values are at stake here? If it's an easy or unimportant decision you may not necessarily do this step. But if the decision has a major impact on your wealth, your health or self-respect, then it's useful to be aware of it.


  • Step 4 - Assess the importance of the decision

    The importance of the decision will determine how much you invest in it in terms of time, energy and money. The importance is determined by examining the implicated values.

    You may also have to consider the context here as well, a different situation or environment can mean that a decision that is often not very important can become very significant.


  • Step 5 - Budget your time and energy

    Having identified the main alternatives and the values, now decide on which time and energy to spend making the decision itself. More important decisions are given more time and energy. He suggests that busy people and nervous wrecks made worse decisions than other people.


  • Step 6 - Choose a decision making strategy

    This step of the 9 step decision making model involves making another decision. The time and energy you plan to devote will affect the strategy you choose.

    And because the strategy you choose may profoundly affect your decision it's important to choose an appropriate one. (He examines some decision making strategies in chapter 2)


  • Step 7 - Identify your options

    When you examine your options in more detail you may discover other options with different implicated values. He points out that occasionally you may have to go back to step three to five and make revisions.

    Sometimes outside expertise may be able to provide options that you haven't thought of.


  • Step 8 - Evaluate your options

    This is where you compare the options available to you. Again he suggests that seeking advice from an expert is often easier than making the decision on your own.


  • Step 9 - Make your choice - on time, on budget

    When you're finished doing the evaluation (only as much as it requires!), you make your choice. He notes that people may still have difficulty at this stage because they fear the consequences of making a bad decision.


A colleague of his was once told 'Relax, no matter what you choose, you will regret it.' He considers this timeless wisdom because it is almost always possible to regret the choices we make. He suggests that by rigidly sticking to a decision making schedule and budget you will eventually tame the demon of regret. (Not a pretty picture!)

The pros and cons

As well as the 9 step decision making model, he explains how we get caught out by numbers, gamblers fallacy, as well as some of the other decision making biases and mistakes that we are subject to as human beings.

Step six and nine of this 9 step decision making model seem to be tricky ones, the ones where you are actually choose between options! Step six to choose the strategy, and step nine to actually choose an option. The author seems to be very pessimistic, preparing people for the fact that they will sometimes be making bad decisions.

Of interest, too, is the idea that initially he says that self reflection is very important. However, in this 9 step decision making model, there is no step that considers reviewing and assessing whether it was a good decision or not.

For the thinkers...

He proposes this model (one of many rational models) as the ideal way for us to make decisions.

If you like knowing all the steps and doing lots of thinking and analysis, (instead of actually making a decision and taking action!!), the 9 step decision making model may appeal to you.

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