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How to make a decision

Do you find it really hard to juggle some of the elements of a decision? For example, which employee should you hire? The one with all the network contacts? Or the one who understands the product? Today I present you with a methodology that provides you with a number for each option – then all you need to do is select the option with the highest number…

This is a method to find an objective choice when there are multiple options to choose from. It allows you to decide the important factors and score each option against those factors. Examples of where this technique can be used include:

  • Deciding which of several interview candidates to select.
  • Choosing which customer should take priority with limited resources available.
  • Selecting a partner (e.g. accountant, banker, PR agent, etc.) to work with.

There are several steps to this process. To illustrate the process I’ll consider the position of two company founders to have decided to hire a Non-Executive Director to help on the Marketing and Sales side of the company. They have just completed the interviews of three candidates: Joe, Andrea and Matthew.

Step 1: Deciding the factors

The factorsWrite down a list of all the factors that are important to the company. Try to ensure that there is little “cross over” between factors. The order doesn’t matter. Enter the factors into a spread sheet.

The founders of the hiring company have decided the key factors are as displayed in the spread sheet.

Step 2: Rate each factor

Factor RatingsFor each factor, rate their importance between 1 & 10 where 10 is most important. Take time doing this and compare each factor with the others to ensure you have the right profile. Add the rating into the spread sheet.

In our example, our founders decided that the Marketing experience was the most important attribute followed by the quality of their references and contact list. So these were rated highly while Engineering knowledge, while useful, was the least important attribute for this role.

Step 3: Rating the options

Put the title of each option in the columns of the spread sheet. Now look at each factor (NOT the factor’s rating) and decide how well each option meets each factor on a scale of -10 – 10 where 10 is a perfect match, 0 is doesn’t match and -10 means it detracts for that factor.

Factors for candidatesWhen the founders discussed Joe’s application, they decided that he had excellent marketing experience and that they could work with him (although there may be some friction). Joe had a dual USA and UK passport and since the job would entail selling in the USA, this gave him a good rating for Geographic references. However Joe fell down when it came to his expectation of reward for working with the founders. Joe expected a 20% shareholding and a salary of £500 per day. The founders worked through each of the other candidates allocating scores to each of the factors.

Step 4: Calculation

For each option, calculate the sum of the factor weighting multiplied by the option weighting. This will result in you ending up with a number for each option. The highest is the option that is be best fit to the factors you selected.

Calculation and resultsIn our example, the calculations are D3 = C3 * B3, D4 = C4 * B4, etc. F3 = E3 * B3, etc. Each column of weightings is then summed.

In this case we see that Joe has a score of 310, Andrea of 336 and Matthew a score of 260. Based on the output of this exercise, the founders should hire Andrea. However, some refinement may be needed…

Step 5: Refinement

You may decide you are not sure the answer is correct. Revisit all the factors and change them as appropriate. If the end decision stays the same, the key option is obvious. If two or more options are very close in value it suggests that there is little to choose between them.

Step 6: Tell me about it

I’d like to know if you’ve used something like this or plan to. What decisions has this technique made easier for you?

This Post Has 3 Comments

    1. Hi Scott,

      I can see that your frame work is very extensive and includes something I used to call “Wearing the Decision” where you go around telling people you’ve made the decision so see how it feels, but haven’t burnt any bridges yet.

      Adding a “numerical step” might make the end result easier to reach.

      I hope that your difficult decision worked out for the good.


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