By Alex Bromage, Kepner-Tregoe Program Leader at Tetra Pak

Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis is a brilliant tool. I use it often, and I think its simplicity is the key to its popularity. When I teach the Problem Solving and Decision Making workshop, it is without a doubt the easiest of the rational processes for the workshop attendees to grasp. Many get it immediately, some take a bit longer. The most common pitfall—and this should be of no surprise to you if you have practiced a lot of KT—is the selection of decision objectives, the criteria for making the decision. I could have said the process of scoring objectives is the greatest challenge, but the problems that I see users face with scoring are caused by setting poor objectives in the first place. This is illustrated in the following example from my own experience.

A colleague who attended my course was a rather ambitious junior manager. He wanted to do a Decision Analysis to identify the best course of action for an organizational redesign. The decision statement was something like “select the best organizational setup to deliver our objectives” (I have removed some details to spare the guilty). The junior manager and his boss started to brainstorm some ideas on what the decision objectives could be. These included:

  • Team member to development team
  • Support sales with product knowledge
  • Coordinate cross border development activities
  • Follow principles and policies

Hmmmmmm… is exactly what I said when I first saw this list. There were about 12 criteria in total of which these were the easiest to understand. So what is the problem we have here? Well in KT Decision Analysis we always teach you to use measures associated with each objective/criteria. I with held judgement and looked at the measures he had listed:

  • ….
  • ….
  • ….
  • ….
  • ….

Nothing. Getting more sceptical now! So I asked him how he planned to measure these criteria? The reply? “I’m going to score them on an agreed upon scale of 1 to 10 in discussion with my manager.” Sounds fairly reasonable doesn’t it? Not all that transparent but you can record your reasoning and then back up the justification. They continued on and developed a list of alternatives to meet their criteria. They were:

  1. Exclude the needs of another organization to simplify the process
  2. Keep things as they are and add 20% resource
  3. Create a new team with a dotted line to the existing manager
  4. Promote the junior manager and have him create his own team to manage delivery of the objectives

I am sure we can all see where this is going now. Low and behold the alternative selected based on the evaluation of the decision objectives ended up to be number 4! That was no surprise. The guy doing the decision analysis came up with a non-quantitative analysis that supported the decision to promote him and give him his own team of people. Nothing fishy there at all!

For the record, he got what he wanted and his manager agreed with his proposal. But what is the learning here? It has to be, avoid exposing yourself to criticism in your analysis by selecting weak criteria that have only qualitative evaluation possibilities!

The correct approach is to select transparent, measurable objectives that can use available data and that are applicable to the decision. Finally, if you stand to benefit greatly from one of the possible outcomes of the decision, have an independent, third party lead the decision-making process. Good luck!

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About Alex

Alexander first became exposed to Kepner-Tregoe when joining Tetra Pak in 2008 and participanted in a Problem Solving & Decision Making workshop. Combined with his experience in pharmaceutical equipment project management and holding various quality positions at Tetra Pak since, Alexander is celebrating his 3rd year as a KT Program Leader. At one time holding responsibility for problem solving at Tetra Pak, he served as a full time trainer and problem solver in several different problem solving methodologies. His current position is in Tetra Pak's service business as a business development manager for Food Safety & Quality Services.

Originally from the UK, he has been living and working in Sweden for close to 8 years. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on twitter @alexbromage and visit his personal blog (