The Decision Making Process

The Decision Making ProcessDecisions, decisions, decisions. Over the course of a day, we make hundreds, sometimes thousands, of decisions. Some are as easy as what to have for breakfast in the morning, but others aren’t quite as easy to make.

In the construction industry, we are often faced with challenging decisions. One might involve the construction of a headwall for a hospital patient room – do you custom build it on site, or do you prefabricate it off site? At a recent Lean Construction Institute (LCI) Community of Practice meeting, we tackled this challenge. 

Larry Rubrich, president of WCM Associates, facilitated a discussion around the lean construction process, Choosing by Advantages (CBA), and standard work for decision-making processes. CBA is a structured decision-making process that starts when a decision must be made, and ends when the decision is implemented and the results are evaluated.

The basic rule around CBA’s sound decision-making process is that decisions must be based on the importance of the advantages only – pros and cons are not used. This tactic avoids decisions based on gut feelings, personal agendas, emotion, or jumping to conclusions. It can be used in all areas of construction – from proforma-development, to estimating, prefabrication, and project scheduling – and its basic structured steps, as outlined by LCI, are listed below using the purchase of a SUV vehicle as an example. 

  • Develop a list of “must haves” and “wants” criteria for the decision.
    • Example:  I “must have” four-wheel drive vehicle. I “want” a vehicle with high miles per gallon.
  • Create a list of alternatives to choose from and identify their attributes.
    • Example:  List the different specifications for a Ford Explorer and an Infinity QX56
  • Create a list of “want” factors, and summarize the characteristics of each alternative for each one.
    • Example:  You “want” high miles per gallon. The Ford Explorer has 28mpg; the Infinity QX56 has 20mpg.
  • Determine the least and most important advantages for each factor.
    • Example:  Eight more miles per gallon  = “X” dollars per year in fuel savings
  • Decide the importance of each advantage by applying a point value
    • Example:  Ford Explorer miles per gallon = 2 points; Infinity QX56 miles per gallon = 1 point
  • Add each of the point values, and chose the option with the greatest total importance of advantages.

This six step process may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. It streamlines the decision-making process, while building consensus amongst all stakeholders, so it’s definitely worth trying. However, if you try to use it to decide what you want for breakfast each morning, you are guaranteed to drive yourself or your family crazy!