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Before embarking upon this assignment, I never thought much about "Decision-Making Models." In fact, I was somewhat surprised at the sheer number of models I stumbled upon in my research. A quick look at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_making) shows that, for business applications alone, there are well over a dozen decision-making models to suit any need. Without being cognizant of the fact, the decision-making process at my current work site closely resembles the "Pros & Cons Model."
The purpose of this paper is to introduce the "Pros & Cons Model," discuss the way in which we have implemented it, and espouse some of the benefits of its use. Because the nature of my work site is somewhat sensitive (we work in conjunction with the State of California to develop the Child Welfare Services software used by social workers throughout the state), no names or specific job titles will be mentioned.
Conceptually, the fundamentals of the "Pros & Cons Model" are quite simple. Every cause has an effect; and these effects can be beneficial or detrimental with varying degrees of severity. By considering and researching the possible effects of any given decision, it should be possible to evaluate and modify that decision in such a way as to maximize the positive effects while minimizing the negative.
Moving beyond the fundamental concepts of the "Pros & Cons Model," we have the actual process itself. According to the Berkeley University of California Career Center website (https://www.berkeley.edu), this process consists of seven steps:
1. On a piece of paper, write down the decision you are considering making. Write it as if you had already made the decision (for example, "Accept the XYZ Company job offer in Los Angeles.")
2. Divide the piece of paper into two columns, with "Pros" at the top of one column. Write down the outcomes of the decision that you believe are positive.
3. In the "Cons" column, write down the outcomes of the decision that are negative or less desirable.
4. In the course of writing down your pros and cons, you will probably notice that there are some outcomes that are uncertain or are too hard to predict. Write these outcomes down on a separate piece of paper.
5. Conduct Research about the outcomes that you are unsure about, then add those to the Pro or Con column.
6. For the outcomes that are simply too hard to predict, you might want to talk with other people to get their input or opinions.
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7. As you begin to complete the table, it may become clearer if the decision you are considering is advisable.
At my current work site, we follow these steps with minor adaptations tailored to an environment where the positive and negative effects of a decision are perceived differently across departments and parties.
Our decision making process begins with a meeting (don't they always?) In this meeting, representatives of all departments (Design, Development, and Test) and parties (Developer, Customer, and End User) are in attendance and arrive with materials, sent out prior to the meeting, that outline the premise(s) of the decision(s) to be made. Once all members are present and have acknowledged that they have reviewed the materials before them, a discussion takes place where each representative outlines the pros and cons of the current decision from their perspective. After each representative has identified their pros and cons, all participants have the opportunity to suggest modifications to the original decision in order to eliminate the majority of the cons that have been identified. At this point, all of the participants in attendance work together to produce a final decision that maximizes the positive benefits for the group as a whole, while minimizing the negative effects.
The benefits of this process are many. First of all, by having all departments and parties involved in creating the final decision, those decisions are (usually) acceptable and beneficial to everyone involved. Secondly, by having all of the relevant information out on the table, it is easier to make logical and beneficial decisions. Finally, by identifying and sharing such a wide array of pros and cons, there is an increased unlikelihood of a negative effect being unaccounted for.
Again, this is an adaptation of the "Pros & Cons Model" used by a single work site. Use of this process has resulted in the benefits listed above; but this approach will not work in all environments. Before this assignment, I knew very little about the wide array of decision-making models currently available; but with a little effort and adaptation, my research has shown me that it should be possible for any individual or organization to find something to improve their decision-making abilities.
Berkeley University of California Career Center. (n.d.). Make Decisions. Retrieved April 7, 2006, from https://career.berkeley.edu/Plan/MakeDecisions.stm