What Are The Most Popular
Decision Making Models?

The most popular

Decision making models can be divided into
  • Rational
  • Intuitive
  • Others

Of these groups, by far and away the most popular decision making models are those of the rational category.

Rational models have a series of sequential steps that involve a thinking process where various options are rated according to potential advantages and disadvantages. The highest scoring option is considered to be the optimum one.

There are many adaptations of this idea and the following are a few of the most popular decision making models of this category. 5, 6, 7 etc. step decision making processes, decision matrix analysis and SWOT analysis. Some of the most popular decision making models used in business are those already listed as well as Pareto Analysis, Critical Path Analysis and Decision Trees.

Multiple step decision making processes

These are covered in detail on the pages on six step and seven step models.

Decision Matrix analysis

This has a variety of names including decision grid, problem selection grid, Pugh matrix and solution matrix. It is used to evaluate and prioritize a list of options against a list of criteria. The highest ranking option is the 'best' solution.

You can use an online version here...

SWOT Analysis

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are examined. They are often drawn in a 2x2 matrix, so that it reads like a list of advantages and disadvantages. While individuals can use it, it is more commonly used by organizations, and often alongside other models.


Pareto Analysis

Working on the 80:20 principle, when there are many changes to be made in an organization, this analysis suggests where the initial changes should be made in order to get the maximum benefit as early as possible.


Critical Path Analysis

This is used where a project has many steps that are interdependent. It identifies tasks which have to be completed on time. This is useful where some tasks cannot be started until the initial ones have completed and also gives an understanding of how soon each task needs to be completed so that the whole project will complete on time.


Decision Trees

These diagrams are used to represent a decision, it's choice points, and other decisions resulting from it as well as the risks and rewards of the various options. The aim is to establish all possible events and their potential effects in order to come up with the optimum solution.

Why so popular?

These are some of the most popular decision making models for several reasons. In our culture we give great importance to thinking and less to the wisdom of our physical systems.

The rational models are all about cognition and understanding and we like understanding. We like to believe we can get a handle on life, the universe and everything. We want to know the future, so we can settle back and relax. The most popular decision making models give us the illusion that we are doing just that!

They are also the most popular decision making models because they are easiest to teach and to learn. They are the commonest models in our teaching establishments and up until recently were the model of choice in the armed forces, although they have realized their limitations and are now introducing intuitive models.

And have you ever asked yourself why there might be so many of the rational models? Because no one of them works with any consistency!

Other Models

Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats attempts to combine rational and intuitive aspects of decision making. The idea is to consider a decision from multiple perspectives by wearing different hats to give a wiser, more rounded decision.
  • White hat: Consider data available and plug any gaps
  • Red hat: Use intuition and consider emotional aspects
  • Black hat: Critically consider weaknesses and produce work arounds
  • Yellow hat: Optimistic view, useful when all seems lost
  • Green hat: Creativity and how to apply it
  • Blue hat: Controller, organizes the thinking

A variant is to consider the situation from 6 people's perspectives, e.g., client, supplier, worker, sales person etc.

Although not one of the most popular decision making models known, Gary Klein's recognition primed decision making model is important to include here. He suggests that his model describes how people make up to 90% of their decisions!

Check out how to use this model for yourself...

Like this page?

Tips for dealing with psychopaths and narcissists

Fortnightly newsletter with practical tips and ideas
Learn more...
'7 Vital Do's and Don'ts of Decision Making' when you subscribe!