A Decision-Making Model that Works for You

Decision-Making Model

Decision-making models provide useful steps for individuals and groups to follow as they attempt to create fitting solutions. Whether you are trying to make a decision for yourself or as a part of a team, the decision-making process can be overwhelming and difficult. Especially within a team, it can be impossible for decision-makers to find the best solution when confronted with a problem that they need to solve.

Without a framework for decision-making processes, a team or person may flounder as they attempt to find a solution. However, when a team or a person has created or identified a decision-making model to follow when faced with a choice, they can reach a solution quickly and effectively, ensuring all of the ancillary issues and considerations are taken into account.

This article will outline the six main decision-making models and discuss how they may be applied within a team.

Defining Decision-Making Models

Before we get into each of the models, it is important to under what a decision-making model is and why it is important. A decision-making model is a structured method that a team or person will use to make a decision. It provides logical steps and helps the user make their final decision. Having a decision-making model that the entire team knows and understands can make any problem or option feel as though it has a solution, no matter how complex.

It also can add structure and support to a group or individual when there is limited information about the options to work from. These models are essential to helping people in all positions find the best solution.

The Basic Decision-Making Process Considerations

Before diving into the individual models, a few considerations should be made to ensure that everyone involved with the model understands their role and how to handle possible solutions.


The first important consideration is who will be making the decision. For some teams, the decision will be made by the entire team working together to reach a solution. For others, the decision may need to be made by team leaders or an appointed decision-maker. If everyone understands who is responsible for making the final decision, they will understand how to interact with and work with each other, and who they need to convince about their solution.


The team members will also need to know how to be involved in the process of decision-making, not just in the final decision. Are they participating by sharing possible solutions or are they solely giving input about the problem at hand? Understanding their role within the process will also help them participate fully and contribute accordingly. Ignoring the decision-making skills of certain team members can harm the process, so everyone must know how to participate.


Finally, the team members need to know how long they have to reach a decision or move through the decision-making models they have implemented. In some cases, the team will need to work through all the steps within a single meeting, while other instances may allow weeks or longer to make a complex decision. Having a timeframe for a decision helps the team understand how quickly they need to address the issue.

The Rational Decision-Making Model

The rational decision-making model is often the most straightforward because it moves through logical steps that most people are easily able to work through even in the most complex issues with heightened emotions. This option is also helpful if you have time to evaluate your options carefully and helps eliminate unnecessary influences, such as confirmation bias, availability bias, or other personal factors.

However, it can take additional time, so it is not a good solution within time constraints. The rational model works through six steps to help make decisions:

  • define the problem,
  • identify the criteria,
  • assign value to criteria,
  • generate possible solutions,
  • evaluate solutions, and
  • pick the best outcomes based on your ranking of the criteria.

Let’s consider each step in turn.

Define the Problem or Goal

The first step is to identify the issue that is trying to be resolved through the decision-making process and clearly define the boundaries of what is to be solved to ensure that everyone is on the same page and ready to work together toward a common goal.

Identify the Decision Criteria

After defining the problem, the team members should then identify the criteria or other relevant information that will influence their decision. If you are deciding with a team at work, this may be things like the organizational mission statement or employee handbook. This is also where team members may research and add information to help make a decision.

Assign Value to Criteria

After you have identified and understood the criteria with which you will make your decision, you should assign value to these criteria. Some of them will be more important than others for the process. By understanding how important each criterion is for the overall decision, the team can make a more informed decision.

Generate Possible Alternatives

Once the team has an idea of how to evaluate the options, it is time to make a list of those options. The group should throw out ideas for how to approach the goal without evaluating it just yet. The goal of this step is to find creative solutions to the issue that are not immediately apparent, and evaluating may remove a viable solution.

Evaluate the Options

Once the team believes they have identified the options, it is time to evaluate the options against the criteria chosen by the team. This may involve trial and error or research to determine how each solution may fare.

Pick the Best Solution

Once you have evaluated the solutions against the criteria, it will likely be clear which of the options is the best alternative for the issue or goal. The team should pick this option and implement it.

The Bounded Rationality Decision-Making Model

Occasionally time pressure will not allow the team to carefully evaluate each of the options, and you may need to move from the best to a good decision. This is where the bounded rationality model steps in. This decision model allows effective decision-making by limiting the number of solutions and the time-consuming analysis of the rational model to find a solution that is good enough for the team to implement within the amount of time that they have.

You can use this model when you are facing time constraints but still want to ensure you pick a good option. However, it is also best to not use this model when making a lasting and impactful decision because this may not pick the best course of action for the long term.

The Vroom-Yetton Decision-Making Model

The Vroom-Yetton Model is the most complex of the decision models that exist, yet it is also the most flexible in the overall process. The model moves through a decision tree to help the parties identify the best course of action for their current situation. It is built upon the idea that the methods to make a decision will change as the situation does, so it is best to have the decision-making tools that could be useful for any situation.

The model begins by asking seven yes or no questions to help guide you toward one of the five types of decision-making:

  • two types of autocratic,
  • two types of consultative, or
  • collaborative

These questions help identify who or what is necessary to ensure all the information is gathered and the decision can be made effectively.

This method can be helpful for individuals or teams that are deciding who needs to assist in the process and who needs to make the decision. It can also be very accessible for anyone to use because it just requires answering questions rather than remembering specific steps. However, you should not use this model if you have a complicated or specific issue that needs to be addressed, as the model focuses on high-level issues rather than specifics.

The Intuitive Decision-Making Model

Although it may seem that you are dodging a model when you rely on intuition to decide, you are using the intuitive model to find a solution. The intuitive decision-making model is less structured than many of the other models, but it still moves through a process of consideration, regardless of how quickly it moves.

You will quickly identify the issue and possibly consult other similar issues or goals that you have encountered in the past to identify a possible solution. You draw on experience to influence the next step through gut instincts.

Most people will use it when they need to make quick decisions without consulting others or research. It can be a great option when you are in an area where you have a lot of expertise or skill. However, if you do not have this knowledge, you may not make the best decision, so this may not be the best model.

The Recognition-Primed Decision-Making Model

The recognition-primed model is very similar to the intuitive model, but it outlines the steps that you should take in your head more clearly to help you address the problem thoroughly. The use of this model should be limited to situations where you have the expertise to ensure better decisions, similar to the intuitive model. The recognition-primed model works through the three steps below.

Recognize a Pattern

The first step of the recognition-primed decision model is to recognize a pattern in similar situations in your own experience and identify the relevant information for making the decision.

Create and Test an Action Model

The next step is to remember the steps taken in a similar situation and create an action plan for how to address this situation. You will need to run through the action plan in your head to determine how it would apply to the current issue. You will want to see how it plays out.


After you have considered the options, you pick the solution that seems to give you the best result in the current situation and implement it.

The Creative Decision-Making Model

The last model we will discuss is the creative model. The creative decision-making model draws on creativity and imagination to test if original ideas may be worthwhile options. Instead of drawing on experience to make a decision quickly, you will take the ideas for a solution and create other situations to test the solution.

This decision-making approach may not be the best process for those hoping to make informed decisions, as it relies heavily on the creativity of the decision-maker, but it can help a person determine the best possible decision quickly.

Final Thoughts

Each decision-making model takes a different approach to solving problems, so it’s important to match the model with your unique situation and leadership style to make the best decision possible. We make many decisions each day, but hopefully, with this article, you can identify patterns or an example of a model to help you continue to make good decisions.

To learn more about decision-making models, common problem-solving models, and more, contact ADR Times!

Emily Holland
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