Decision Making Framework

I recently attended a leadership workshop facilitated by Emily MacLean and Shantel Clark at the 2024 ADE Academy in Montebello Quebec about courageous conversations and it reminded me of a courageous conversation I had with two senior administrators and colleagues.

I was in charged of awarding grants to reinvent learning commons in the district and schools would apply for this $15,000 dollar grant that could be used to renovate, refurbish furniture or buy new technology.

I had 5 grants to give that year with 10 applicants.

Two senior administrators applied automatically thinking that they would win the grants based on their seniority, clout and long history of receiving every perk available in the district.

Long story short, they did not receive the grant and I was summoned to explain why.

Anyone in a position of leadership will need to make decisions whether big or small, high stakes or low stakes, or potentially involving budgets and/or impactful to peoples lives.

When challenged with how decisions are made, it is important to be able to make your thinking visible. I had the pleasure of attending this workshop on Decision Analysis and it was one of the most valuable workshops I have ever attended and have used their framework to inform my decisions making.

The intent of the framework is remove the subjectivity or bias in the decision process but more importantly, it helps others see how the decision was made.

The process can be applied to anything and you can do this individually or in a group.

This workshop was assigned to every senior leader in the organization and it was to ensure that we were thoughtful and transparent in our decision making as well as be accountable to the stakeholders.

  1. Situation Appraisal: Clarify the situation, outline concerns, and choose a direction.
  2. Problem Analysis: Define the problem and determine its root cause.
  3. Decision Analysis: Identify alternatives and conduct a risk analysis for each.
  4. Potential Problem Analysis: Scrutinize the best alternatives against potential problems and propose actions to minimize risks.

Detailed Steps

  • Situation Appraisal: Clarify the situation.
  • Outline concerns.
  • Choose a direction.
  • Problem Analysis: Define the problem.
  • Determine the root cause.
  • Decision Analysis:Identify alternatives.
  • Conduct a risk analysis for each alternative.
  • Potential Problem Analysis: Scrutinize the best alternatives against potential problems.
  • Propose actions to minimize risks.

Decision Analysis Process

  • Prepare Decision Statement: Include the desired result and the action required.
  • Define:Strategic Requirements: ‘Must haves’.
  • Operational Objectives: ‘Want to haves’.
  • Restraints: Limits in the system.
  • Rank Objectives: Assign relative weights to objectives.
  • List Alternatives: Generate as many potential courses of action as possible.
  • Score Each Alternative: Eliminate alternatives that do not fit the ‘must haves’.
  • Rate each alternative against each ‘want’ on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Multiply the weight of the objective by the satisfaction score to get the weighted score.
  • Choose Top Alternatives: Consider potential problems or negative effects of each.
  • Analyze Alternatives: Rate alternatives against adverse effects, scoring for probability and significance.
  • Choose the high-scoring alternative.
  • Plan of Action:Suggest a plan to minimize adverse effects of the chosen alternative.

Lastly, it is important to assess the risks of your decisions. What will happen if you choose one alternative vs another and can you shoulder the responsibility of the decision.

I have applied this framework for hiring teachers and administrators, choosing technology for the entire district, selecting recipients for large grants, and selecting vendors.

The must was based on equity and the superintendent stipulated that the recipients must be schools that could NOT advance their learning commons aspirations without the grant.

The two administrators operated two of the schools with the largest surplus budget and they were able to move forward with their respective projects this year. I reminded them of the criteria which was previously communicated, I showed them their budgets and also their respective scores based on the framework. Although their score was high, the must was “equity” of opportunity.

They were both satisfied with my process and it was not personal in nature as it was designed to a non-biased process. More importantly, the thinking was visible. To further reduce the bias, I could have included my people in the decision making process.

As a concession, I suggested that they would not have to re-apply for the grant the following year.

Please feel free to comment, I am more than happy to unpack my process with anyone.

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