After a decision maker has successfully and accurately defined the problem and generated the alternatives to the decision as well as the alternative and consequences that may arise as a result of the decision, he or she can then evaluate the alternatives that have been generated. There are a few tools available that can be used to help quantify the potential alternatives and outcomes to a decision. These tools includes a simple pro/con analysis, an influence diagram, and a decision tree.
For a relatively unimportant decision, a decision maker may conduct a simple pro/con analysis mentally to decide which alternatives may be the best or worst. However, for more complex decisions, a decision maker will want to use a tool that will help quantify the cost or riskiness of the decision. A decision tree can do this by laying out the alternatives and then assigning a "utility" or a relative value of importance to a particular alternative, either in dollar amounts or in a different metric. Laying out these options and calculating the actual utility or dollars saved is important to make a decision without bias based on the most important factors. Decision trees can also be combined with other financial projections such as Net Present Value calculations, which determine the present or current value of a stream of incoming cash flows that a project will bring in sometime in the future.
Another tool that decision makers can use to quantify a decision is an influence diagram. An influence diagram is a compact graphical and mathematical representation of a decision situation (Figure 1). It is a generalization of a Bayesian network, in which not only probabilistic inference problems but also decision making problems can be modeled and solved. Influence diagrams have been adopted widely and are becoming an alternative to decision trees, which typically suffer from increasingly difficult calculations when a lot of alternatives are available. Influence diagrams are directly applicable in team decision analysis, because they allow incomplete sharing of information among team members to be modeled and solved explicitly.
These tools can be used to combat bias when making decisions about complicated alternatives. Having the alternatives laid out in a quantitative way can eliminate bias that influences decisions, such as availability of information or ease of information, which may make a decision maker prefer the alternative that is the easiest to implement. Influence diagrams and decision trees can help in evaluating alternatives in an unbiased manner.