Wednesday, 13 January 2010

How I use MindGenius for decision making

We all make decisions on a daily basis; when these are simple decisions, we can usually readily determine the best solution to follow. However, when the decision is more complex, or has higher risk consequences, needs justification, or when a number of people are involved in the decision, it makes sense to use a rigorous and disciplined, yet simple, decision making process.

Ed Hreljac and his partners from Process Power have been using and reselling MindGenius for nine years. One of the key processes they have been using MindGenius for is group decision-making. Here Ed discusses the process to follow when using MindGenius for this task.

MindGenius helps me as a “decision process facilitator” leading groups of participants through a systematic process carefully considering all of the available options. The derived best option will have strong alignment to the organizational objectives, and the process itself will result in more buy-in from stakeholders and give you more confidence that the best decision has been made.

MindGenius is especially helpful at the front-end of the process when structuring or breaking down the decision into manageable chunks, thus tackling complexity. Consequently, decision makers can communicate the decision logic and use their professional judgment on many small components of the decision rather than being forced to intuitively draw an overall conclusion. These are the steps I follow:

Identify the goal for the decision

Identify the goal for the decision i.e. the overriding purpose of your decision. Create a new MindGenius map and make this the core branch title (e.g. select best IT project). Define the goal statement in the Notes field of MindGenius.

It is critical to clearly state the goal of the decision being tackled. It is surprising how often a misstatement or misunderstanding of the goal leads to a poor or frustrating decision process. For example, you might be trying to decide what car to buy but your spouse is still deciding whether or not you should even buy a car. These two perspectives with respect to a car purchase will reflect different goals in the decision model and subsequently change the criteria and alternatives accordingly.

Brainstorm the criteria

To work out the criteria to be used to help make the decision, I usually undertake a brainstorming exercise with MindGenius. Try to identify all relevant criteria e.g. improve financial position, maintain or improve service, etc., drag and drop ideas in the map to create structure to facilitate comprehension and measurement. Clustering ideas into common themes and the concept of MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) may be helpful.

Meaningful criteria should be brief enough to be quickly interpreted and descriptive enough to be clear. I find it helps to draft a clear definition or example in the Notes field.

Ensure that the criteria identified are uniformly phrased, understood, and agreed on by the team.

Assign criteria weightings

Start by assigning % weightings to each of the high level criteria you have identified on your map (these should total 100%), continue to breakdown these % weightings to the lower level criteria. The percentage complete field on the Task ribbon can be used to record the lower level weightings.

Having defined our required decision and identified the criteria we will use to make that decision, this framework can be exported to Excel. (Tip: Use the hierarchical export and merge cells option, then include the % complete field in the export.)

Record and rate alternative options

When using MindGenius you should list or brainstorm your alternative options and draft a description for each (in the Notes field of MindGenius).

Add your alternative options to the excel spreadsheet and rate how well each alternative option contributes to each criteria using an appropriate rating scale.

Once this has been done, you need to calculate the best option based on your ratings.

In this example each individual rating has been multiplied by the percentage value for those criteria and totaled for each project. Project E appears to be the project that best meets the stated weighted objectives (criteria). It will be an extremely strong contributor towards Increasing Revenue (the most important criteria at 20% weighting) and towards Improving Service Efficiency.

Please contact us if you would like the specific calculation for this example or further details of this process.


Michael Snyders said...

Ed, thanks for this great idea. I decided to take it a step further by creating a corresponding mindmap with each Alternative as second level branches and then copying the criteria branches under each alternative. The ratings are provided in the "Quantity" field for each criteria under each alternative.

The Alternatives Map is then exported into a second worksheet in the Excel Model with both "% Complete" and "Quantity" fields.

I'd be more than happy to share the templates with you if you're interested.

Ed Hreljac said...

Hi Michael, I would love to see your template. Sounds really good! I think many users may not take MindGenius for decision-making as far as you (or me), but much of the benefit comes from structuring the decision in a hierarchy(the 'front-end'). Would you agree? On the other hand, I'm sure MG will have many more creative applications like yours now that we can export to Excel.

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