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Better Decision Making Optional Criteria

Part 5 of a series: As we set forth to make a decision and evaluate alternatives we use goal posts or criteria to measure each alternative. These criteria can fall into one of two categories. Mandatory criteria are those which are non-negotiable. Any alternative must meet these criteria or they fall from further consideration. This may be hard as one alternative may be your personal favorite.

However, the whole point of a decision making process is the find the best alternative. Any alternative must be able to satisfy these mandatory requirements.The other category of criteria is optional; sometimes called the "wants" or negotiable criteria.

These criteria are those that the best alternative will meet in the most satisfactory way. Once an option passes through the mandatory criteria, each option is evaluated against the wants. In this way the best solution starts to appear.As Bob worked to decide on his house, he declared his musts as three or more bedrooms, and a garage.

Short of that, any alternative would meet his housing choice requirements. After that Bob had to decide what other features or qualities he would like in his house. After careful thought he created a list: formal dining room, large back yard, two car garage, finished basement, and room for a shop.

His list complete, his next task was to determine how important these optional criteria were in the final decision.Since each option that would make his list would already have a garage, having a larger garage would be nice, but certainly not necessary. So he ranked this desire relatively low.

Bob and family love sports and his big screen TV needs a place to live too, so the finished basement, while not mandatory certainly would make life a lot easier in the rest of the house. Bob ranks this want very high. Following a similar process, Bob ranks the remaining negotiable items relative to each other and gains agreement from his family on that ranking.

Now Bob is ready to evaluate each option's ability to meet the wants. KEY POINT: the best option will meet the most wants and then be rated highest.In your decision analysis process, how many optional criteria can you have? Well then answer is it's up to you.

Too few criteria will not adequately define what you are looking for. A truck, for example can meet many of the criteria found in a sports car. However, a truck is not a sports car! On the other hand, too many criteria can leave one muddled in minutia, having to gather great volumes of information on factors that have little to do with the final alternative being better than the others. So where do you draw line? Well, it's up to you and practice over time with many types of decisions will show a proper balance between too much and too little criteria.Digging a bit deeper, you may ask again, "How do I know if I have enough criteria?" A few steps will help. First, get input.

Ask your family, friends, co-workers, sales persons, and so on. Find out from them what might be important to a decision of this type. Look at comparisons of similar items found in magazines, or books or on the web. You'll find yourself getting a feel over time about where to land when selecting the number and type of optional criteria.

Another option may be to group criteria. In the house example a group might be called "convenience items" and include such subcategories as lighting, closets, and close storage. Another category might be room to grow and include breaker box capacity, yard space for expansion, ability to add an attic and the like.

Now that you have the criteria listed you look at each criteria as it relates to each alternative. Each area is evaluated and weighed; the better an option meets a criteria, the higher it's scoring will be. A three-car garage for example will get a higher score than a one-car garage. The full analysis will then begin to paint the picture which option is best for your level of decision.

At this point in the process you've set a clear decision statement and know what you are trying to decide. You've crafted a clear set of mandatory criteria and another set of optional criteria that when met will show you how your options stack up against one another. In our next article we'll talk about optional criteria in more detail.

.Stephen Straining operates the site http://www.

MyDecisionSpace.com The tools found on the site are dedicated to helping families make better decision to save time, resources and money. Better decisions make for happier families and lives!.

By: Stephen Straining

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