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Composing a Situation Discription for a Decision Analysis

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Situation Description

This is an elaboration of the Situation Description section in the Decision Analysis unit. In this section you are describing the current situation and the information you have gathered. The quality of your final decision depends, in a large part, upon the information gathered and how it has been analyzed.

Excerpt from the Decision Analysis unit:

Thorough thought applied to this section stimulates alternative ideas in the following section.

This will help clarify the problem definition if that is proving a challenge.

The Situation Description section is helpful for both problem solving or for exploring an opportunity. [See Problem / Opportunity Definition] It also serves as a report of information gathered from primary and secondary research.

Be careful not to mix the historical background information with this current description of the situation. If necessary, define the boundaries or scope of the exercise or subject.

If the content is extensive, you may list the facts here and refer to a more complete text in an appendix. Include critical opinions and their sources.

If the situation is complex, you may clarify with one or more of the following techniques:

  • list facts in a point order form under different headings
  • draw diagrams to show relationships, importance of each fact, weighting of opinions, sequence of events, etc.
  • use charts or mindmaps
  • summarize the results of research data and analysis

Possible Sub-sections

Facts and Data

  • Research: Primary (you gathered) and Secondary (data gathered by others such as census data or library material)
  • Analysis of results from your experimentation and studies
  • Interviews with experts and trusted sources
  • Observed events
  • Observed experiences of others in similar situations


  • Unrelated information not pertinent to the final decision
  • Constraints which cannot be changed
  • Availability of funds and other resources

Opinions and Assumptions

  • Opinions (pre-conceived, prejudiced or biased) of decision makers
  • Opinions of influential third parties
  • Public perceptions or possible reactions
  • Convenient assumptions with low risk that save time and effort
  • Reasonably calculated risks

Your Checklist Questions

  • Does it provide sufficient information for solving the problem or for exploiting an opportunity (probortunity)?
  • Does it satisfy the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when and why?
  • Is it a clear uncluttered analysis of the situation? In other words, devoid of any obfuscation?
  • Is the information (dates, amounts, event, etc.) verified as accurate? If not, is that so stated?
  • Do you need to take action to achieve your goals and priorities?
  • Are you using your resources wisely? Do you have enough or too much information gathered?
  • Have you sought advice or observed the experience of others to prevent "re-inventing the wheel?"
  • In defining boundaries did you include mention of what is NOT under consideration?
  • Are opinions and assumptions stated as such? Who made the assumptions?
  • Is there a reference to documents in the appendix?

Is not wisdom based on being well informed? - Plato

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