An Advanced Decision-Making Model


You may have heard that decision-making is an art. In many ways, that is true, but it doesn’t have to be. I would argue that it can and likely should be strategic. Making informed decisions is crucial in both personal and professional realms. However, the decision itself is not all we must worry about. After all, some decisions are well-intentioned but ultimately do more damage in the long run. The truth is that the research and planning that goes into a decision and navigating the outcomes are just as important as the decision itself. That is… if we desire optimal impact.

Of course, if we desire the best outcomes, we must be vision-focused. However, this doesn’t mean being an idealist. Instead, it means that we need to become realists and outcome-oriented, and this requires a different approach to the decision process – one that helps see the outcome and aftermath more clearly. The ability to foresee and balance potential outcomes ensures decisions are strategic and resilient rather than an artistic hope. Here, I provide a structured decision-making framework that encourages considering the best-case, worst-case, and most likely scenarios, which will undoubtedly enhance your decisions’ effectiveness.

It happens in four steps:

Step One: Envisioning the Ideal Scenario

Objective: To inspire and motivate by imagining the optimal outcomes of a decision.

Description: Start by envisioning the best possible results that could arise from your decision. This stage is about stretching the imagination to its limits and beyond, considering the highest aspirations you hope to achieve. This step is vital in setting high goals and fueling ambition.


  • List all positive outcomes without restraint.
  • Consider and include any new opportunities or possibilities that may emerge as you write. Be creative and know that such exploration is vital before almost any major decision or change.
  • Evaluate how these outcomes align with your overall goals and values.

Why It Matters: This step serves as a motivational anchor and a visionary guide, keeping the decision-making process aspirational and forward-looking. It also helps us to discover potentials or additions that we had not previously thought about.

Step Two: Considering the Worst Case Scenarios

Objective: To assess risks and prepare for potential downsides.

Description: The key is in the contrast. This critical step involves thinking through the possible adverse outcomes of your decision. It helps develop contingency plans and risk mitigation strategies, and it also helps strengthen Step Three.


  • Identify the worst possible uses of this decision in the real world.
  • Analyze potential environmental, social, and economic impacts.
  • Consider the direct and indirect effects on your immediate community and broader stakeholder groups.

Why It Matters: By anticipating the worst outcomes, you can prepare or prevent these scenarios, thus safeguarding your project and reputation.

Step Three: Assessing the Most Likely Scenario

Now that you have your best and worst-case scenarios, you can construct a more balanced middle-ground and likely scenario. Moreover, you now have both a solid goal to shoot for and a list of things that could potentially undermine your decision. This balance will allow you to be more agile once the decision is in motion and then navigate any potential hardships more easily.

Objective: To realistically predict the probable outcomes of the decision.

Description: This step balances optimism with pragmatism by considering what is most likely to happen based on current information and logical assumptions. This will be your strongest case and the one you should spend the most time on.


  • Outline the expected scenario, including potential setbacks and challenges.
  • Apply “Occam’s Razor” to simplify assumptions by opting for the scenario with the fewest new assumptions.
  • Once completed, extend the analysis to second and third-order consequences to understand long-term impacts. In other words, consider the effects of the effects of this decision.

Why It Matters: This realistic assessment helps fine-tune strategies and expectations, ensuring that plans are hopeful but also practical and executable.

Step Four: Critical Evaluation by a Devil’s Advocate

It will be tempting for most to skip this step in many instances. This avoidance is primarily due to the uncomfortable nature of accepting critique over ideas and decisions to which we have dedicated so much thought, time, and energy. However, if you want optimal outcomes, I would argue that this is your most vital step. The goal here is to become aware of the weaknesses in either your logic or the overall plan. Knowing these weaknesses allows you to fill those gaps, prepare for inevitable road bumps, or strengthen your strategy.

Objective: To refine and strengthen the decision by identifying and addressing flaws.

Description: In this phase, an independent party reviews the idea, the decision-making process, and outcome predictions to challenge assumptions and expose hidden flaws. Consider this individual your “editor,” whose job is to help you hone your material before going public.


  • Select a reviewer (a solid naysayer) who can objectively assess the idea and is unafraid to challenge you and the status quo. This person will likely NOT be someone who has a vested interest in protecting your feelings.
  • Give your reviewer overt permission and encouragement to “tear it apart.” You want them to provide thorough critique and exploration of potential issues in the decision-making process.
  • Analyze the feedback objectively. Don’t take offense to the critique. Instead of seeing the feedback as a negative, consider it a list of improvements and obstacles to overcome and then incorporate viable solutions or mitigation strategies into your plan.

Why It Matters: This step helps you identify your blind spots and enhance the decision by fortifying it against overlooked risks and biases. In other words, this step promotes robustness and resilience. The trick is to discover as many potential limitations as possible.

A structured decision-making process that includes envisioning the best, preparing for the worst, and realistically anticipating the most likely outcomes ensures comprehensive preparation and strategic foresight. Such a process mitigates risks and enhances the potential for success, demonstrating a proactive rather than reactive approach to decision-making and outcome mitigation.

This is one of my favorite decision-making models because it helps us prepare for various outcomes and encourages critical thinking and strategic planning. Additionally, involving a “devil’s advocate” in the process is a great strategy to challenge assumptions and uncover potential weaknesses, which can really only strengthen the decision-making process overall – if you’re strong enough to accept the critique. Best of all, this method is beneficial in many contexts. I have used it in everything from business strategy to personal decisions, and usually, such decisions are well-rounded, thoroughly considered, and most importantly… achievable.