Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mathmatical Decision Making

It may or may not be clear in my "blogger identity" that I am / can be a compulsive planner. This could / can be a negative - but can also be a positive, considering that planning part of my responsibility. i am also very interested in problem solving, and the techniques/process involved in solving problems.

Thus, it was interesting when an article called
Weighted Averages Method of Problem Solving came up in my project management class. I have used alot of techniques, but not this one. When planning vacations / expenses / budgets / shows, I often use hard numbers. Some problems warrant using the first, best option, then a re-evaluation as the problem evolves. Obviously problem solving is different in the planning stage than the doing stage.

But when planning, and using hard numbers - I have often been faced with a scenario where the numbers don't really tell the whole story. For instance, when going to USITT how important is it to stay at the conference hotel, versus another hotel in walking distance. A hotel in driving difference? That means weighing driving versus flying (I've looked at buses and trains, but they never seem to be good options for me). If you fly - and want to drive- then there is a rental car involved. How does that weigh in? All of these variables have costs which I can determine fairly accurately (I know the price difference in hotels, an estimate of gas & mileage, airfare, etc). What can't be calculated is the gut feeling or importance of where you stay. Staying further away adds a commute. perhaps having no transportation in a city w/o a good public transportation system will suck. Perhaps you have friends to visit, or want to see other things. Perhaps you want to entertain in your room or hotel. Perhaps there are evening events. There are situational issues to be considered above and beyond the mere cost.

In a production, a price point might point you in one direction of fabrication, but perhaps another alternative has better benefits that aren't financially apparent - perhaps it is more "green" or recyclable, or able to be reused in future productions.

While using weighted averages seems an obvious way of sorting this all out, I had never thought about it before. The article above gives a good introduction and explains how to use the process.

The second article,kepner tregoe Decision making offers a fuller approach to problem solving and also used weighted averages, and is worth the read also.

Finally, at the other end of the spectrum is the 70% Rule:

This Rule states that if you have 70% of the data and have completed 70% of the analysis and if 70% of your gut feeling or instinct is in agreement with the first two, then go ahead and make your decision. In other words, you have a greater likelihood of making the best decision by using the 70% Rule than you would have had, if you had not used the 70% Rule.

While this is used in a military context, when lives can be at stake, and what we do is rarely life critical, we will often operate in situations where we don't have all of the necessary information, and must make a decision and move forward before it is possible to completely analyze every scenario.

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