Quantitative Pros and Cons
Weigh up Decisions With a Simple Approach
Many of us experience "analysis paralysis" when we're faced with a difficult decision. Often, we're afraid of making the "wrong" choice, so we spend a huge amount of time analyzing every possibility, and struggling to reach a conclusion.
At other times, however, we are convinced that we already know what the best solution is, so we make decisions quickly and don't consider all the alternatives.
You can avoid both of these situations by weighing up the pros and cons of a decision – a simple but effective decision-making strategy that allows you to look at the situation from different angles, consider appropriate solutions, and make a confident choice.
In this article, we'll explore how you can analyze the pros and cons of a decision quantitatively, so that you can make considered and well-informed choices.
About the Tool
Weighing up pros and cons can speed up the decision-making process, improve your understanding of the situation, and help you avoid decision-making paralysis. Using a simple "pros" and "cons" list encourages you to approach your decision objectively, without letting your "gut feeling" impact your choice.
This method is particularly useful in group decision making, when team members favor a certain idea, point of view, or plan. It encourages each person to consider other perspectives, and it can help your team reach a balanced, informed decision.
Evaluating pros and cons is useful for making quick, non-critical, go/no-go decisions. However, when you have to compare many different options, or explore some choices in greater depth, decision-making tools such as Decision Matrix Analysis or Decision Tree Analysis may be more appropriate.
How to Use the Tool
Weighing up the pros and cons of a decision is a quick and easy process.
First, write the decision you have to make at the top of a sheet of paper. Next, divide it in half vertically, and label one side "Pros" and the other "Cons." Then, list all of the possible positive consequences of the decision in the pros column, and all the negative effects in the cons column.
It may already be obvious whether you should implement the decision at this stage. If not, consider the points you've written down, and assign a positive or negative value to each one. For example, a score of +5 may be strongly favorable, while -1 may be mildly unfavorable. Try to score as objectively as possible!
Once you've finished, add up the scores in each column, and subtract the total cons from the total pros. A positive overall score indicates that you should go ahead with the decision, while a negative one suggests you should scrap it.
Remember, always use your common sense. If you suspect that the solution isn't appropriate, take some time to identify any factors you may have missed.
It can be useful to set a time limit for this process during group decision making. This encourages people to brainstorm issues without over-analyzing details.
Imagine that you manage your organization's marketing department. Some of your team members would like to work remotely several days a week, rather than from the office every day. So, you need to decide whether to provide the option to work from home.
Although working with a virtual team has a number of benefits, it also presents several risks. So, you weigh up the pros and cons of a remote working policy, below.
|Implementing a Remote Working Policy|
|Allowing team members to work from home can reduce their stressful commutes and increase their productivity. (+5)||It may be more difficult for team members to build meaningful, productive, creative relationships with one another. (-4)|
|Remote working provides greater flexibility, particularly for working parents and caregivers who have other responsibilities. (+4)||The organization would have to budget for equipment that team members can take home. (-4)|
|It's possible to hire highly creative people who live further away if they don't have to come into the office every day. (+4)||The organization may not be able to keep track of how people spend their time. (-3)|
|People who are distracted by office noises and regular interruptions will perform better. (+5)||The company could lose control of its data, because equipment and documents are removed from the office. (-5)|
|Team members' communication skills will improve, as they will learn to communicate more effectively using email and IM, for example. (+3)||It will be harder to schedule face-to-face meetings and provide constructive feedback. (-1)|
Your final score is +4 (21 pros-17 cons), so it makes sense to implement a remote working policy that permits your team members to work from home for several days each week.
Weighing up pros and cons is a quick, simple way to make objective, considered decisions. Quantifying options helps you weigh up your decision.
Start by writing the decision you have to make at the top of a sheet of paper. Then, divide it in half, and label one side "Pros" and the other "Cons." Write down all of the possible benefits of following the course of action, and all the possible negative outcomes, under each heading.
Your decision may be clear at this stage. If not, you can score your pros and cons to show the importance of each. The total will help you decide whether it's worthwhile going ahead with the decision.
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