Listing Pros and Cons

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If an established set of criteria already exists evaluation of the options becomes equivalent to Comparison Tables, with all criteria of equal weight. However, it is more likely that a situation is not that simplistic with little or no clear criteria. For example, deciding what you should do next from a set unrelated possibilities (Shall I go home, finish this job, or go to the cinema).

Using the Pros and Cons approach with only 2-3 options lists the pros and cons for each and compares the results directly. However, working with larger numbers of options requires the following more systematic approach

  1. Generate a comprehensive collection of Pros and Cons, by working through the options one by one and generate a realistic set of pros and cons for each (using creativity approaches if it helps). Write each pro or con on a separate card or Post-it, clearly marked ‘+’(for a pro) and ‘-‘(for a con).
  2. Collate the collection into an ordered checklist of criteria, with pros and cons stacked separately, any duplicates removed and a single master checklist of all pros and all cons prepared. If time is short an assistant could carry out the first iteration. Focus on the central issue you are working on and order the lists Vital (‘make or break’), Important (but not absolutely vital), Marginal (i.e. ‘would be nice if…’). These categories can be sub divided further is necessary.
  3. Pick out ‘Vital’ Options, by making a ‘short-list’ of potentially viable options. If unsure about an item, do not exclude it, yet.
  4. From the ‘Vital’ short-list, pick out ‘Important’ options, counting the number of ‘important’ pro criteria that are present, and con criteria that are absent. Eliminate all options that score poorly at this stage, to leave a list of feasible, good quality options.
  5. Repeat with the ‘Marginal’ criteria, condensing the short-list yet further to only options that are feasible, of good quality, and which have useful additional properties
  6. This technique is used mainly for screening out clearly weaker options using vital/important/marginal distinction. It does not make finer distinctions within a final short-list. Another technique should be sought to take the short-lists any further.