Pareto’s Law applied to decisions

When I demonstrate the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF) web application, I sometimes get pushback when folks see the Decision Management windows/tools/panels:

  • Criteria: Seeds the decision with proven pattern of ~10 factors to consider; enables the user to define their Threshold (walkaway point) and Objective and drag-drop criteria into priority bands
  • Alternatives: Used to define alternatives (possible solutions) and their timing and drag-drop them into initial “Preference” bands
  • Evaluate alternatives: Used to score alternatives against the criteria.  Drag-drop and capture a few rationale notes.
  • Compare alternatives: Tornado and Spider charts that highlight relative advantages and disadvantages of alternatives.

Their resistance is stated something like “I don’t see where I would use this; few of my decisions are worth that much effort”.  To their surprise, I readily agree and cite Pareto’s Law as applied to decisions:

  • “Just 20% of your decisions will have 80% of the impact on your life or business”
  • “So don’t sweat the small stuff”
  • “But don’t overlook the vital few decisions either”

The Decision Driven® tools are architected around a consistent concept of scalable rigor, i.e. use whatever level of rigor (effort, discipline, data analysis and documentation) is appropriate for each decision based on its priority – its potential impact on your future.  So for any decision you can do any of the following:

  • Delete or skip the decision (fundamental question that demands an answer/solution) as irrelevant to your life or business
  • Capture just a title for your current alternative (historical or AS-IS answer, incumbent solution)
  • Capture a title plus a brief alternative description
  • Capture a title, description, plus a brief selection rationale paragraph
  • Define 2 or 3 alternatives and score them against the criteria, with no rationale capture
  • Score 3+ alternatives against the criteria, capturing some rationale notes to back-up each scoring judgment; View the Tornado and Spider chart to crystallize your thinking and commit to the best alternative.

I really believe everyone on earth can find at least 10 decisions that are important enough to their future to justify the hour or 2 that it takes to do the latter process (the most rigorous use of the tools).  If not, you should really “get a life” or “get a job“.

For more on this topic, check out my Feb. 15, 2008 post on The value of a decision:

Also see how easy it is to plan, make and manage your critical decisions with the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). You can get started with a free trial of DDSF by contacting the Decision Driven® Solutions team at or

About decisiondriven

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