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What are common decision making techniques?

by D. Power

A variety of structured techniques have been discussed for helping planners and decision makers. The following discussion emphasizes 5 decision making techniques. According to Robert Harris at, the first three are especially useful for decisions involving yes/no, either/or, or two-possibility decisions. The last two techniques are especially useful for decisions involving several alternatives and several criteria.

1. T-Chart. A T-Chart is an orderly, graphic representation of alternative features or points involved in a decision. In one form, it can be a list of positive and negative attributes surrounding a particular alternative.

2. PMI. Edward de Bono refined the T-Chart idea into a three part structure, which he calls PMI for plus, minus, and interesting. Here the decision maker first lists all the plus or good points of the idea, then all the minus or bad points, and finally all the interesting points--consequences, areas of curiosity or uncertainty, or attributes that one simply doesn't care to view as either good or bad.

3. Buriden's Ass. This method is used when two or more equally attractive alternatives are faced. The name comes from an old fable of an ass placed between two equally nice bales of hay. The ass couldn't decide which bale to turn to because they were both so attractive, and so it starved to death from indecision. The decision maker lists all of the negative points or drawbacks about each alternative. The Buriden's Ass method focuses on the drawbacks of each possible alternative.

4. Measured Criteria. The decision maker lists the criteria s/he wants a decision to meet and assigns points to each criterion based on its relative importance in the decision. Then, each alternative is given a certain number of points according to how fully it meets the criterion. For points you can use a scale of 1 to 10, 1 to 100, or any other range that makes sense to you.

5. Decision Matrix or Weighted Decision Table. A table is developed with each criterion given a weight depending upon its importance and each alternative is given a ranking for that criterion.


Robert Harris, "Decision Making Techniques," Version Date: July 3, 1998,

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