Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eight Step Decision-Making Process

Here is the description of the eight step decision-making process:

Eight Step Decision-Making Process, Baker et al. 2002

This is a description of the process with a lot of text from the guidebook by Baker et al. 2002.

Step 1: Define the Problem

Problem definition is crucial for making a good decision. This step identifies

  • root causes, 
  • limiting assumptions, 
  • system and organizational boundaries and interfaces, and 
  • any stakeholder issues. 

A good problem definition expresses the issue in a clear, one-sentence  statement that describes both the initial conditions and the desired conditions. Everybody involved in the decision-making process needs to agree on a written problem definition before proceeding.


Step 2: Determine Requirements

Any acceptable solution to the problem must meet the requirements. Requirements describe what the solution to the problem must do.


Step 3: Establish Goals

Goals are broad statements of intent and desirable programmatic values. Examples might be: reduce
weight, lower costs, lower health risk, etc. Goals go beyond the minimum essential must have’s (i.e. requirements) to wants and desires. Goals should be stated positively (i.e. what something should do, not what it shouldn’t do).


Step 4: Identify Alternatives

Alternatives offer different approaches for changing the initial condition into the desired condition. Generally, the alternatives vary in their ability to meet the requirements and goals.


Step 5: Define Criteria
It is necessary to define discriminating criteria as objective measures of the goals to measure how well each alternative achieves the project goals. Each criterion should measure something important, and not depend on another criterion. Criteria must discriminate among alternatives in a meaningful way and  should be:

  • Complete – include all goals 
  • Operational – meaningful to the decision maker’s understanding of the implications of the alternatives
  • Non-redundant – avoid double counting
  • Few in number – to keep the problem dimensions manageable

Input from the decision-maker(s) is essential to the development of useful criteria. Moreover, the decision-maker’s approval is crucial before the criteria are used to evaluate the alternatives.

Step 6: Select a Decision-Making Tool
The method selection needs to be based on the complexity of the problem and the experience of the team. Generally, the simpler the method, the better. There are several decision-making tools available, they will be part of one of the next blog postings.

Step 7: Evaluate Alternatives against Criteria
Alternatives can be evaluated with quantitative methods, qualitative methods, or any combination. Criteria can be weighted and used to rank the alternatives. Both sensitivity and uncertainty analyses can be used to improve the quality of the selection process.

Step 8: Validate Solution(s) against Problem Statement
After the evaluation process has selected a pre- ferred alternative, the solution should be checked to ensure that it truly solves the problem identi- fied. Compare the original problem statement to the goals and requirements. A final solution should fulfill the desired state, meet requirements, and best achieve the goals within the values of the decision makers.


The eight step method describes a process with 8 activities, all using the verb noun notion. The front-end is very clearly described. The separation between requirements and goals may be fuzzy for a few criteria, but they are included in one of the two ways. The selection process is described in many detailed activities and the evaluation is linked to many possible tools and techniques.The last step is a review of the results, whether they fulfill the problem statetement. The linked decisions tools and the description is short and meaningful.

Implementation and feedback steps are completely missing in this process. The process is very complete in the front-end part of the process, but the decision execution is completely missing.


More information about different decision making processes: List of all reviewed decision-making processes. See the comparison of the optional decision-making methods for further study.

Here is a link to the book Guidebook to Decision-Making Methods from Baker et al., which describes this eight step process in more detail:

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