The PrOACT Decision Making Process: A Self Evaluation

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The PrOACT Decision Making Process: A Self Evaluation

The decision making process is a multi-faceted progression of thoughts and actions postulated to solve a problem, answer a question or to determine the most efficient and effective method to complete a task or assignment. There are dozens of procedures that one may utilize in order to facilitate this undertaking, each offering their own advantages and disadvantages. The PrOACT decision making model is one of those techniques that can be used to blueprint a decision that will have the most positive impact in a given situation. One such situation involves the decision the author had to make regarding a traffic stop. The author observed a vehicle in front of him failing to maintain lane (crossing the double yellow and driving on the shoulder) which produced the probable cause necessary to effect a traffic stop. Upon first contact with the operator, it was discovered that said operator was a patrol Lieutenant from the author’s agency. This Lieutenant asked the author to “help him out” and then called him “Detective” with a wink and a grin. This evaluation will explain how the author used the PrOACT decision making model in order to reach a conclusion that was not only most acceptable to said author, but yielded the most ethical and effective resolution to the situation.

Before detailing the situation at hand and the methodology utilized to reach the conclusion, it is necessary to fully understand the components of the PrOACT decision making model. This procedure, consisting of eight steps, was developed by John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, and Howard Raiffa and is detailed in the book “Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions”. PrOACT is an acronym for the first five core elements of the decision model; Problem, Objectives, Alternatives, Consequences, and Tradeoffs. The remaining three elements, Uncertainty, Risk Tolerance and Linked Decisions help to clarify decisions in volatile or ever-changing environments (Hammond, Keeney & Raiffa, 1999, p.5).

The first thing that needs to happen before any decision making is the problem needs to be identified and defined. Without a well-defined problem, the possible solutions may not present themselves as clearly or at all for that matter. In fact, without a properly identified problem, the following steps in the process will not be as effective (Hammond, Keeney & Raiffa, 1999, p.15-28). In this situation, the problem is that the Lieutenant wants you to look the other way and offer him special treatment. He is looking to be held to a different standard than the average citizen and has further complicated matters by offering a reward, promotion to detective, for your compliance.

Once the problem is clear, one can define the objectives to the problem. Why is this a problem? What is the desired outcome? By determining what the objectives are, it will aid you in determining what other information you need in order to reach your preferred conclusion. The objectives that you define will also help to justify your ultimate decision to others and determine the significance of that decision (Hammond, Keeney & Raiffa, 1999, p.29-43). As a police officer you are sworn to uphold the law at all costs. Given the authors predicament, saving the Lieutenant from trouble, resolving the matter quickly and with little attention and, on a personal level, obtaining a promotion are all objectives in the eyes of the author. Keep in mind that the career goals of the author need to be taken in account here because the opportunity to realize that goal has been made by the Lieutenant.

Now that the problem is defined and the objectives are determined, a suitable set of alternatives needs to be generated. Having a solid set of alternatives will prove most beneficial during this process and it must be pointed out that having many alternatives available, regardless of how obscure or unrelated they may seem, will make the decision easier. In this step, one must be able to think outside of the box to formulate as many viable alternatives as possible. Despite moving on to the next steps, alternatives can always be devised to help the outcome of the process (Hammond, Keeney & Raiffa, 1999, p.45-62). The author has several alternatives available; he can call a first line supervisor in order to have them resolve the matter, the author can call on a peer for advice, he can contact the county sheriff’s office or state police and let them handle it or the author can do nothing and ignore the matter entirely, get in his cruiser and drive away.

With a good working list of alternatives, the consequences of those alternatives need to be considered on order to prevent making the wrong choice. One can make use of a consequences table (see figure 1) in order to visually determine what the drawbacks of the alternatives may be. Remember that when you take a risk, in this case making a choice, there will be consequences, good or bad associated with it (Hammond, Keeney & Raiffa, 1999, p.63-78). Based on the objectives in the situation and the alternatives described above, the author can help the Lieutenant out and get promoted though, not the most ethical of choices. He can contact another agency or member of his agency and run the risk of damaging his career and the career of the Lieutenant, or the author can do nothing.

When the consequences are established, one needs to look at whether or not there are any tradeoffs that may be made in order to ease the decision. There may not be any, but often times the objectives presented will conflict and the decision-maker may need to “choose the lesser of two evils” so to speak (Hammond, Keeney & Raiffa, 1999, p.79-103). The author wants to become a detective and in order for that to happen he needs the Lieutenant’s approval to go to the detective division. This situation ensures that the author will go to the detective division however, the question of ethics (decision trap) arises and the author has to decide what is more important to him; getting his gold shield or making the responsible choice. The tradeoff in this situation is a conundrum that only the author can answer and will be able to using the described steps above. To avoid the trap, though, the author needs to determine for himself if the ethical question is truly an issue and if it is he needs to make a choice that better fits his personal makeup.

Making decisions is something that individuals have to do on a daily basis; some easy some not so easy. The process outlined herein is one of many methods that one can utilize in order to make the most responsible, effective and efficient decisions possible in a given situation. The ethical dilemma proved to be too strong for the author to bear and a first line supervisor was contacted and the author was sent back on patrol. Still not a detective, the author feels better about his decision after using this method to reach the conclusion.

Figure 1

Consequence Table

Alternatives

Call supervisor/other agency

Help Lieutenant

Contact Peer

Do Nothing

Objectives

Receive promotion

No

Yes

No

Yes

Quickly resolve matter

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Keeping the Lieutenant out of trouble

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Figure 2

Decision Tree

References

Hammond, J. S., Keeney, R. L., & Raiffa, H. (1999). Smart choices a practical guide to making better decisions. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

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