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?