Elements of a Good Decision Model

Goal: The final purpose or aim; the end toward which effort is directed.

Objectives: Something that ones efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish.

Alternatives: Allowing or necessitating a choice between two or more things.

A good decision model has a clear goal (i.e. to delimit the problem), measurable objectives, and alternative choices with some way to quantify the "best ones."

Once the alternatives are prioritized; the top ranking alternatives will most contribute to achieving the Objectives--which will ensure that the goal is reached.

Most decisions involve these three elements (goal, objectives, and alternatives).

It is critical to start with the goal or a "statement of the problem." This is perhaps the most important part of the model, often missed, overlooked, or it is just assumed that everyone knows what it is--this is typically not the case. The "goal" is the check-and-balance on the objectives and alternatives. Most importantly, a good goal statement delimits the boundaries of the problem. Sometimes setting those limits get you 90% towards the solution.


Here are some questions to ask in order to cross-check your goal, objectives, and alternatives once you have brainstormed them with a group.

  • Have we stated the goal in terms of the "end state" we want to achieve?

  • Have we defined the parameters of the problem that is being solved (i.e. problem statement)?

  • Is there an"in order to" phase in the goal statement?

  • Does the goal statement explain why we need to make this decision? Another way to look at this is, "what are the implications if we don't act?"

  • Have we included a time element in the goal statement (by when)? Is one needed?

  • Have we defined the measurable objectives needed to be met in order to reach the goal?

  • Are the objectives stated in terms of the direction you want the objective to go (e.g. increase revenue, maintain margin, improve brand awareness)? Adding verbs helps.

  • If we met these objectives, would we have achieved our goal?

  • Have we expressed all the alternative options available in order to meet the objectives? What are we missing

  • Would the top ranked alternatives fulfill the objectives and then drive the achievement of the goal?