How To Make Effective Decisions


Complex decision making is a part of everyone’s life. The decisions we make shape our life. Some important decisions people are faced with are: Should I go to college? What career should I pursue? Where should I move? The PrOACT model is one of the most effective decision making models to use when making a decision. The PrOACT model can be broken down into five steps.

The First Step: Define The Problem 

The entire process of the PrOACT model begins with a problem. How the problem is framed directly impacts the decisions made about the problem. To effectively frame your decision problem start by writing down your initial assessment of the basic problem, question it, test it, and hone it. Here are some helpful tips to use when framing your decision problem:
1) Ask what triggered the problem.
2) Questions the constraints of your problem statement.
3) Identify essential elements of your problem.
4) Understand what other decisions impinge on or hinge on this decision.
5) Gain fresh insights by asking others how they see the situation.
6) Reexamine the problem definition as you go.

The Second Step: Identify Your Objectives

The second step of the PrOACT model is identifying the objectives of the problem. Objectives are the decision criteria that will help you evaluate the solutions that are open to you. Objectives do the following:
1) help determine what information to seek
2) help explain the decision to others
3) determine a decisions importance
4) determine how much time and effort the decision deserves

Without objectives it is impossible to clarify what is important when making a decision. Begin by writing down all your concerns you hope to address with this decision. Convert those concerns into objectives. It may help to create an objective list. An example of an objective list is below:

Objective Sub-objective
Quality Job Needs a job in the film/video editing industry
Wants to work 40 hours a week
Likes hours to be scheduled rather than flexible

The Third Step: Consider Alternative Solutions

The third step of the PrOACT model is create and consider the alternative solutions you can make. Alternatives solutions represent the range of potential choices you can make when pursuing your objectives. Here are some important points to consider when creating alternative solutions:
1) Do not box yourself in with limited alternatives- once you find one possible solution, look further. Generate alternatives that could lead to a better solution.
2) Use your objectives to guide your search for alternative solutions.
3) Set high aspirations.
4) Create alternative solutions first and evaluate them later- this will help you broaden your range of alternative solutions.
5) Allow time for your subconscious to operate- your subconscious needs time to stimulate other potential alternative solutions.


The Fourth Step: Lay Out Consequences of Each Solution

Laying out the consequences of each solution is the fourth step in the PrOACT model. The main benefit from describing consequences is to help you understand. You need to really understand the consequences of your alternatives before you make a choice. Here are some tips for laying out consequences:
1) Create a free-form description of the consequences of each alternative- write down the consequences using words and numbers that capture key characteristics of the solution.
2) Make sure the descriptions of the consequences are accurate, complete, and precise.
3) Systematically compare the consequences of the alternatives- list the pros and cons relative to the others.


The Fifth Step: Evaluate the Tradeoffs

Important decisions usually have conflicting objectives, and you have to make tradeoffs. One needs to give up something on one objective to achieve more in terms of another objective. At this point in the process, you should be able to eliminate some poor alternatives. The choices that remain will seem to balance each other: alternative A will be better than alterative B on some objectives, but worse on others. Here are tips to determine the tradeoffs of each solution.
1) Balance long term with short term- determine what you would be willing to give up in the long run in order to gain something in the short run and vice versa.
2) Use the swap method- Weigh the value of each objective in terms of another. When you think about the value of one objective in terms of another, you will be able to eliminate objectives. As more objectives are eliminated, more alternative solutions can be eliminated, and the decision becomes easier.



Hammond, J., Keeney, R., & Raiffa, H. (1999). Smart Choices: A Practical Guide To Making      Better Life Decisions. New York: Broadway Books.

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