Step 2: Objectives


The core of SDM is a set of well defined objectives and evaluation criteria. Together they define “what matters” about the decision,

drives the search for creative alternatives, and becomes the framework for comparing alternatives.

Objectives – Introduction

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you just might end up somewhere else” – Yogi Berra.

Most managers are familiar with the basic steps of setting objectives. In this section we will review some structuring tools that will help to do this efficiently and in ways that will best support a sound evaluation of management options. The use of ‘objectives’ here may be different to its use in other management contexts; SDM objectives are defined the way they are to support subsequent analysis, so try to keep in mind the specific usage of the term described below.

There are many considerations to keep in mind when defining objectives and evaluation criteria. However, the bottom line is that objectives and evaluation criteria form the framework for evaluating alternatives. They should:

  • Focus decision makers on what matters in the decision, even when what matters is hard to quantify
  • Generate creative ideas about alternatives, and be used proactively to design good alternatives
  • Provide a basis for consistently and transparently comparing alternatives, with emphasis on exposing key differences in performance (trade-offs) and critical uncertainties
  • Focus and streamline data collection and modeling to ensure an efficient decision-relevant information base. From this perspective, there are no right or wrong criteria, but there are better and worse ones.

There are five basic steps in identifying objectives:

  • brainstorm the “things that matter”;
  • state the objectives;
  • separate them into means and ends;
  • create an objectives hierarchy;
  • test your objectives to make sure they will be useful.

These are discussed in the sections that follow.

Key Ideas

  • Seek out interest-based objectives
  • Expect objectives to be mutually contradictory
  • In SDM, objectives always have a preferred direction