Value-Focused Thinking: A Path to Creative Decisionmaking

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The standard way of thinking about decisions is backwards, says Ralph Keeney: people focus first on identifying alternatives rather than on articulating values. A problem arises and people react, placing the emphasis on mechanics and fixed choices instead of on the objectives that give decisionmaking its meaning. In this book, Keeney shows how recognizing and articulating fundamental values can lead to the identification of decision opportunities and the creation of better alternatives. The intent is to be proactive and to select more attractive decisions to ponder before attempting any solutions.

Keeney describes specific procedures for articulating values by identifying and structuring objectives qualitatively, and he shows how to apply these procedures in various cases. He then explains how to quantify objectives using simple models of values. Such value analysis, Keeney demonstrates, can yield a full range of alternatives, thus converting decision problems into opportunities. This approach can be used to uncover hidden objectives, to direct the collection of information, to improve communication, to facilitate collective decisionmaking, and to guide strategic thinking. To illustrate these uses, Keeney shows how value-focused thinking works in many business contexts, such as designing an integrated circuit tester and managing a multibillion-dollar utility company; in government contexts, such as planning future NASA space missions and deciding how to transport nuclear waste to storage sites; and in personal contexts, such as choosing career moves and making wise health and safety decisions.

An incisive, applicable contribution to the art and science of decisionmaking, Value-Focused Thinking will be extremely useful to anyone from consultants and managers to systems analysts and students.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis

[Value-Focused Thinking] is both an inspired and inspiring book. It is also a rarity among academic and business texts: it is a 'damn good read.' Keeney writes well, arguing his case clearly in the abstract and illustrating it through numerous interesting and pertinent examples.
— Simon French

Decision Analysis Newsletter
Outstanding...Innovative thinking.
Value-Focused Thinking clearly demonstrates the problems occurring in commercial and other organizations as a result of restricting decision choice to the available alternatives (alternative-focused thinking), rather than starting by considering what it is intended to achieve (value-focused thinking).
Journal of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis - Simon French
[Value-Focused Thinking] is both an inspired and inspiring book. It is also a rarity among academic and business texts: it is a 'damn good read.' Keeney writes well, arguing his case clearly in the abstract and illustrating it through numerous interesting and pertinent examples.
Journal of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis
[Value-Focused Thinking] is both an inspired and inspiring book. It is also a rarity among academic and business texts: it is a 'damn good read.' Keeney writes well, arguing his case clearly in the abstract and illustrating it through numerous interesting and pertinent examples.
— Simon French
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674931985
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 988,832
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Ralph L. Keeney is a private consultant in San Francisco, as well as Professor of Systems Management, Institute of Safety and Systems Management, University of Southern California. He is coauthor (with Howard Raiffa) of Decisions with Multiple Objectives, which was awarded the Lanchester Prize of the Operations Research Society of America.
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Table of Contents

PART 1: Concepts

1. Thinking about Values

1.1 Value-Focused Thinking

1.2 Creating Alternatives

1.3 Identifying Decision Opportunities

1.4 Thinking about Values

1.5 The Uses of Value-Focused Thinking

2. The Framework of Value-Focused Thinking

2.1 Framing a Decision Situation

2.2 Fundamental Objectives

2.3 The Decision Context

2.4 Guiding Strategic Thinking and Action

2.5 The Framework

2.6 Comparing Alternative-Focused and Value-Focused Thinking

2.7 Ethics and Value Neutrality

Part 2: Foundations

3. Identifying and Structuring Objectives

3.1 Identifying Objectives

3.2 Identifying Fundamental Objectives

3.3 Structures of Objectives

3.4 How to Structure Objectives

3.5 Desirable Properties of Fundamental Objectives

3.6 Relating Objectives Hierarchies and Objectives Networks

3.7 Incomplete Objectives Hierarchies and Networks

3.8 Objectives Hierarchies for Groups

4. Measuring the Achievement of Objectives

4.1 The Concept of an Attribute

4.2 The Types of Attributes

4.3 Developing Constructed Attributes

4.4 Use of Proxy Attributes

4.5 Desirable Properties of Attributes

4.6 The Decision of Selecting Attributes

4.7 Connecting Decision Situations with Attributes

5. Quantifying Objectives with a Value Model

5.1 Building a Value Model

5.2 Multiple-Objective Value Models

5.3 Single-Objective Value Models

5.4 Prioritizing Objectives

5.5 The Art of Assessing Value Models

5.6 Issues to Consider in Value Assessments

Part 3: Uses

6. Uncovering Hidden Objectives

6.1 Insights from Attributes

6.2 Insights from Violations of Independence Assumptions

6.3 Insights from Value Tradeoffs

6.4 Insights from Single-Attribute Objective Functions

6.5 Insights from Multiple Value Assessments

7. Creating Alternatives for a Single Decisionmaker

7.1 Counteracting Cognitive Biases

7.2 Use of Objectives

7.3 Use of Strategic Objectives

7.4 Focus on High-Value Alternatives

7.5 Use of Evaluated Alternatives

7.6 Generic Alternatives

7.7 Coordinated Alternatives

7.8 Process Alternatives

7.9 Removing Constraints

7.10 Better Utilization of Resources

7.11 Screening to Identify Good Alternatives

7.12 Alternatives for a Series of Similar Decisions

8. Creating Alternatives for Multiple Decisionmakers

8.1 Pleasing Other Stakeholders

8.2 Stakeholder Influence on Your Consequences

8.3 Clarifying Stakeholder Values for Group Decisions

8.4 Creating Alternatives for Negotiations

9. Identifying Decision Opportunities

9.1 Use of Strategic Objectives

9.2 Use of Resources Available

9.3 A Broader Decision Context

9.4 Monitoring Achievement

9.5 Establishing a Process

9.6 Negotiating for Your Side and for the Other Side

9.7 Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

9.8 When You Have No Idea about What to Do

10. Insights for the Decisionmaking Process

10.1 Guiding Information Collection

10.2 Evaluating Alternatives

10.3 Interconnecting Decisions

10.4 Improving Communication

10.5 Facilitating Involvement in Multiple-Stakeholder Decisions

10.6 Guiding Strategic Thinking

Part 4: Applications

11. Selected Applications

11.1 NASA Leadership in Space

11.2 Transporting Nuclear Waste

11.3 Research on Climate Change

11.4 Air Pollution in Los Angeles

11.5 Design of Integrated Circuit Testers

11.6 Collaborating on a Book

12. Value-Focused Thinking at British Columbia Hydra

12.1 Identification and Structuring of the Strategic Objectives

12.2 First Revision of the Strategic Objectives and the Preliminary Attributes

12.3 Current Version of the Strategic Objectives and Attributes

12.4 The Quantitative Value Assessment

12.5 Insights from the Value Assessment

12.6 Decision Opportunities

13. Value-Focused Thinking for My Decisions

13.1 Strategic Objectives for Life

13.2 Guiding Involvement in Professional Activities

13.3 Decisions about Health and Safety

13.4 Professional Decisions

13.5 Personal Decisions

13.6 Value-Focused Thinking and You


Index of Applications and Examples

General Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2002

    Focusing on What Really Matters

    Decision making is my main professional development interest and has been for years. I've read dozens of books on the subject. Keeney's book is in my top three and is probably the most unique. Most books on decision making focus on how to choose the "best" alternative. Keeney focuses on how to define what "best" means. Focusing on values and objectives has made a dramatic positive difference in the effectiveness of my business and personal decision making.

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