Using The FOR-DEC Decision Making Tool

When you are making key decisions, what approach do you take?

Decision-making and solving problems are important in most organisations but the approaches people take are many and varied.

One tool that appeals is the FOR-DEC approach and it’s something I came across in The Astronaut Selection Test Book by Tim Peake & The European Space Agency. 

This is a fascinating book that includes real puzzles and training exercises conducted by ESA to see if applicants have what it takes for space. Well, space exploration might seem worlds apart from school but think again. What can we learn from the best?

FOR-DEC was developed by Lufthansa and the German Aerospace Center and is one method of applying structure and logic to a complex problem.

This model is aviation inspired but it is also used in other contexts such as nuclear power stations and emergency medicine. Could it therefore be used in some education contexts where big decisions have to be made that are potentially life or system threatening?

FOR-DEC is an acronym for Facts, Options, Risks, Decide, Execute, Check.

F – Facts (What is the problem?)
O – Options (List possible ways to resolve the problem)
R – Risks (What is the downside of each option? What is the upside?)
D – Decide (Based on the pros and cons or each option, decide what level of risk you are prepared to take and select a course of action)
E – Execute (Put the decision into action)
C – Check (Ddid everything work/go to plan? What else needs to be done?)

Other decision-making tools are available and in many respects they follow a similar route. For example,


C – Clarify the problem
L – Look for data and share information
E – Evaluate different solutions
A – Act on your decisions
R – Review performance


R – Review the problem
A – Analyse
I – Identify solutions
S – Select an Option
E – Evaluate


G – Gather Information
R – Review the Information
A – Analyse the (you guessed it) Information
D – Decide
E – Evaluate the Course of Action


D – Detect
E – Estimate
C – Choose
I – Identify
D – Do
E – Evaluate

I think FOR-DEC does have a place in the world of education and not necessarily in super high stakes situations. The decisions we make may not always be the best ones and can be full of bias which is why a structured model could help us reach a sensible conclusion when we have a difficult decision to make.

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