What are criteria?

Criteria are one of the most fundamental elements of making a high quality decision.  Simply put, criteria are the way that you define success for a specific decision.  There are many synonyms for criteria: factors, measures of effectiveness, attributes, characteristics, goals, objectives, requirements, desirements, constraints, musts, wants, needs, desires….

Criteria help us avoid the tendency to latch onto a favorite alternative, become enamored with it (because it was our idea and we are brilliant) and lose sight of its weaknesses, while also overlooking other more creative or effective alternatives.  They provide balance and help us do our “due diligence”.

We use criteria as a yardstick or measuring/scoring scale when we evaluate alternatives.  I think of them as an arrow that points in the direction of “goodness”.   For convenience, let’s say that goodness always points to the right.  At the left end of the arrow, I define a point that I call my “Threshold” or “must-have limit”.  That is my walkaway point or line in the sand.  Any alternative to the “bad” side of this is rejected from further consideration; it doesn’t meet my minimum requirements for success in this decision.

Although the arrow of goodness may go on to infinity (more goodness is a good thing), to keep my decision practical, I define an “Objective” or “Ideal” value; the best I can realistically hope for from any alternative in the current decision.

For a Career decision, I might set a Threshold on the Income factor of $30,000 per year and an Objective of $300,000.  That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t consider a career that could earn $1 million per year; it’s just not realistic given my skills, values, circumstances, etc.

Each alternative performs (based on our estimates, experience or inputs from others) differently against each criterion.  We gather our data concerning the alternative to estimate how effective it may be against each factor and then place it on the “arrow of goodness” where it belongs.  This may be somewhere in a “Fails must” band on the left or in a “Great” band somewhere near the Ideal.

I will address other concepts concerning criteria in future posts (e.g. priorities).  However, the good news is that you don’t have to generate criteria from scratch.  Our Decision Driven® Solution Framework (DDSF) patterns include the criteria for each decision.  The criteria aren’t perfect, but they are a very good starting point that should include 90% of the factors that you should consider for the decisions that you face.  You may add to, split or combine the criteria that we provide, but in most cases you’ll just need to define your Threshold and Objective values and you’re ready to evaluate your alternatives.

Seed your decisions and their criteria from patterns available in the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). Get started with your free trial of DDSF by contacting the Decision Driven® Solutions team at trial@decisiondriven.com or solutions@decisiondriven.com.

About decisiondriven

Innovator in Decision Management, Systems Thinking and System Engineering methods and tools
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