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Better Decision Making Mandatory Criteria

Part 4 of a series: Decision making we've learned is a process to determine a course of action when that course is not readily or easily obvious. There may be many alternatives and no clear best one to pick. Likewise, we may need to decide between two alternatives, or just between YES or NO. In any example a level of the decision is stated and an evaluation of any alternatives can begin.BEFORE alternatives are stated however, the very next step is to understand what criteria we'll use to assess each alternative.

Why do we do it this order? Understanding the criteria first helps you or your team or family get clear on what's important to the decision. This occurs before the alternatives are reviewed and prevents "pet" options from guiding or structuring the process to lead to a particular outcome. At the end of the process it is critical to have total alignment to the recommendation. This is best achieved by a well thought out decision question first, then by stating clear criteria to evaluate any alternatives.

If we all agree on the decision we're trying to make, and then agree on the criteria we'll use to make that decision, we're on our way to a robust outcome that we can all feel good about and support.All criteria however are not created equal. Every alternative we might select will meet conditions we'd like to have and some, but likely not all, will meet criteria that we MUST have. These criteria are mandatory and serve a very clear function.

What is mandatory? Mandatory is non-negotiable and not open for discussion. Mandatory criteria can be found in the decision question as a starting point for example. "Which new car should I buy" has several mandatory criteria for the alternatives; new, car, and buy (versus lease). Any alternative that doesn't involve these criteria will not be considered.

Most times however the mandatory criteria are add-ons to the process and stating them will help you and your stakeholders understand better how the alternatives support the decision.In deciding to buy a new car, Bob has declared as mandatory a manual transmission. This is his first NEW car and will be his primary source of transportation.

He loves to shift gears when he drives so a manual transmission is non-negotiable. Bob's wife however cannot drive a manual shift car and has had difficulty learning to do so for many years. At this point, she has no interest! So is the manual transmission mandatory or not? Well, it's up to Bob of course and he can deal with the consequences of that choice too. The key is this: when Bob makes it mandatory ? NO other car will be considered. No automatic transmission car will even make to the table for a look as it does not meet the mandatory requirement.In the same example, Bob has declared that his new car will cost no more than $15,000.

That's a hard target for sure and very clear. What happens when one of Bob's alternatives proves to cost $15,001? Will Bob find four quarters in his desk drawer or perhaps skip a cup of coffee tomorrow to fund the extra $1? Now let's suppose Bob finds the absolute perfect gem, selling at $15,500. Should he walk away or maybe sell his stereo to fund the extra amount? In this case, $15,000 may in fact be mandatory.

If Bob's willing to skip coffee, or sell his stereo then the hard target is likely VERY important to Bob, but just as likely not mandatory.In a last example, as Bob was considering his new living quarters he determined he had to have a garage to store his new car. He would not even look at houses without garages ? not a one. In this case, a garage was the price of entry: no garage, no option.Mandatory criteria are not required for every decision however they are very powerful tools.

These criteria limit your options in very clear terms which everyone can understand. They describe conditions that are easily measured and either meet the condition or don't. The criteria and the information on each alternative are non-negotiable.

No option "sort of" meets mandatory criteria. It either does or it doesn't! If there is any discussion or disagreement on this fact, then either the criteria or the information is incorrect.In the next article we'll discuss negotiable or optional criteria, sometimes called "wants" or "desires". These criteria are conditions that should be met by all alternatives to a decision. However, they will be met in varying degrees and as such help us decide which is the best alternative to our decision.

.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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