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Ralph L. Keeney

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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.

Value-Focused Thinking: A Path to Creative Decisionmaking by Ralph L. Keeney

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.

Ralph Keeney´s (Duke University) talk on Value-focused Thinking at the University of Bayreuth

Ralph L. Thinking about Values 1.


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  • 2. The Framework of Value-Focused Thinking!
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  • The Framework of Value-Focused Thinking 2. Identifying and Structuring Objectives 3. Measuring the Achievement of Objectives 4.

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    Quantifying Objectives with a Value Model 5. Thus, there are four main groups who should find this book most interesting.

    One group is ana- lysts and consultants who make a living providing insights and advice to others with responsibilities for important decisions. The second group is students concerned with any aspect of decisionmaking.

    Value-Focused Thinking: a chapter-by-chapter summary

    Such students may study management, policy, psychology, economics, law, design, en- gineering, or operations research. The third group is individuals in government agencies or organizations concerned with big issues that transcend well-established individual or organizational decision pro- cesses. Such issues include hazardous waste, global warming, disarma- ment,. The fourth group is people who find decisionmaking interesting, intriguing, and challenging, who enjoy the process of thinking through tough problems.

    Depending on your interests, you may not wish to read all of the book.

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    In particular, essentially all of the material requiring any mathe- matical knowledge has been included in Chapters 5 and 6 and desig- nated sections of Chapters 4, 11, and The reader who is not mathe- matically inclined can skip these passages with no loss of qualitative ideas.

    If your main interest is very broad strategic thinking, start with the early sec- tions of Chapter If your interest is major organizational decisions, select sections in Chapters 11 and If your main concern is how to think better about personal decisions, read Chapter 13 first. Then go back and read the earlier chapters for a thorough grounding in the principles, procedures, and uses of value-focused thinking.