Three simple decision-making tools

Achieve high quality outcomes with appropriate decision-making tools.

A recent Michigan State University Extension article highlighted three tools for brainstorming innovative ideas. The next step in a group planning process is decision-making, which includes helping a group prioritize their ideas, assess their commitment, determine the importance of topics, or simply narrow a set of proposals.

After brainstorming and before prioritizing, the group reviews their list of ideas, topics or solutions. The facilitator should ensure that similar items are grouped, redundancies omitted and the meaning of each concept is clear to everyone.

These three decision tools can be used for a variety of situations and are both simple and useful:

1. Sticky Dot Voting – Most effective when there are many ideas or alternatives from which to choose.

  • Clarify the criteria that defines the vote (ex. Most important, greatest impact, best use of time and/or money, etc.).
  • Give each participant a set of sticky dots – usually three to five dots. The number of dots for each person often depends on the number of items being evaluated or the number of participants.
  • Each person puts their dots on the idea, topic or solutions he or she prefers, based on the clarifying criteria.
  • The votes are then tallied and discussed.

2. Sticky Dot Alternatives – These alternatives may be used in place of Sticky Dot Voting or after ideas or alternatives have been narrowed down by other criteria.

  • Passion Voting: Provide each person with one dot that is a different color from the others. This is their “passion vote.” Participants put their name on the dot to signify they would be willing to devote time and energy to this idea. Committees or action teams can be formed from the results.
  • Rank Voting: Provide each person with three dots of different colors. Each color represents a different point value. For example, the green dot is worth 5-points, the yellow is 3-points and the blue 1-point. Ask the group to determine their votes in silence on a piece of paper then place their dots on the idea topic or solution he or she prefers. The votes is tallied and discussed.

3. Matrix or Criteria Rating – This tool uses a decision grid (see diagram) to assess a set of ideas or solutions against a variety of criteria. Label the grid with group-determined criteria along one axis and list the ideas along the other. Sometimes one criteria is determined to be more important than the others and may be weighted. In the example below, cost was determined to be double the importance of the other criteria.

General Criteria Question: How appropriate is each solution to the following four criteria? (Rate on a scale of 1 -5, where 1 = not at all and 5 = very much).

  • Mission – How well does this idea support our mission?
  • Ability – How able are we to achieve this idea?
  • Cost – How cost effective is the idea (1 = high cost; 5 = low cost)?
  • Benefit – How beneficial to our organization would it be to achieve the solution?

Criteria

Mission

Ability

Cost

(2X)

Benefit

Total per Solution

Choices:

Solution A

 

2

 

5

 

4x2=8

 

3

 

18

Solution B

4

4

4x2=8

4

20

Solution C

4

5

1x2=2

5

12

Solution D

5

3

1x2=2

5

15

Solution E

5

1

1x2=2

5

13

In the above example, Idea B was determined to be the most appropriate solution, based on the identified criteria. The outcomes are discussed and next steps determined.

Decision tools are many and the choice of what to depends on the situation. It is important for groups to move beyond brainstorming in order to determine next steps for action. 

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