Situation Appraisal for strategic situations

I regularly come into contact with highly skilled professionals who have had training in human thinking patterns (aka rational process, systems thinking) somewhere in their past.  A Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving & Decision-Making (PSDM) workshop was my first introduction into this field.

A bit of history as I understand it…

Dr. Charles Kepner and Dr. Benjamin Tregoe observed human thinking patterns across multiple industries and situations and found that they could reduce human thinking to 4 reusable patterns.  They called these patterns:

  • Situational Appraisal
  • Problem Analysis
  • Decision Analysis
  • Potential Problem Analysis

Any issue/concern can be mapped to one of these patterns and then attacked through a proven set of data gathering questions and data-crunching, value-creating, answer-producing steps.  Situation Appraisal is unique; it doesn’t produce any specific answers to issues, but rather separates them, prioritizes them, maps them to one of the other 3 patterns and builds a plan-of-attack to resolve the issue.

The Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS) used within the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF) is really a form of advanced Situation Appraisal for strategic situations.  In strategic situations there is little reason to do problem analysis (to find the root cause of unexplained behaviors).  Until some strategic decisions are made to provide context, it’s premature to do much potential problem analysis (aka risk management).  So strategic situations (any in which a new future is created) are 99% decisions.  Knowing this, I can build a rich decision representation of the strategic situation immediately.  If I’ve developed a set of proven decision patterns, I can do this comprehensively on the first day that I turn my attention to some new, high priority, complex endeavor.  The Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS) is a much richer model than the flat list of prioritized issues created by a standard Situation Appraisal; it’s a complete breakdown of the thinking that provides context for all other knowledge assets that will be created along the way.  It doesn’t wait for issues to pop up and present themselves; it proactively makes these issues (decisions) visible and actionable.

So if someone recommends that you do a Situation Appraisal or its weaker cousin, a Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis, first ask yourself if you’re primarily looking forward and need to create a better future.  If so, skip the regular Situation Appraisal or SWOT and start today to build a Decision Breakdown Structure for your strategy.

Do not build your Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS) from scratch! Utilize the proven patterns available within the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). Please contact the Decision Driven® Solutions team at or to start your free trial of DDSF.

About decisiondriven

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