Gift books for your favorite decision maker

smart choices bookHappy holidays! Are you still shopping? I am. So I thought I’d pass on some suggestions for books for the decision makers (or would-be decision makers) in your life.

Smart Choices:
A Practical Guide to Making Better Life Decisions
John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney and Howard Raiffa
Broadway Books
242 pages
Smart Choices is a very helpful, easy-to-read, and non-technical guide to the decision process. It includes many examples that help you think through your decisions before you analyze them. There is emphasis on the subjective aspects of decision-making, including psychological traps and risk tolerance. The Even Swap method (used in Chapter 10 and Case Study 8 in my book) was developed by the authors and is described in their book. I highly recommend it for its guidance on defining the problem, objectives, alternatives, and consequences.

Decision Empowerment:
A Parent’s Guide to Raising Good Decision Makers
Robert N. Charette and Brian W. Hagen
Decision Empowerment Institute
156 pages
This is the only book I know of that focuses on decision making for children, an essential life skill that is not taught in the schools. Written for parents, it provides a simple five-step process to guide children to make good decisions through parent-child dialogs. The techniques are helpful for all ages and address tough issues such as values and uncertainty. The examples address typical decisions that children face and clarify the process with realistic dialogs. This book is available only through the publishers

Simple Spreadsheets for Hard Decisions:
Best personal, financial, and business choices with Microsoft Excel—when you have too many goals and too little information.
Carol Jacoby
City Shore Press
278 pages
My book presents decision techniques supported by spreadsheets. While this addresses only Excel 2007 and earlier, the techniques and example spreadsheets are valid for any Excel version. You can learn the essential Excel skills in some of my earlier posts. The emphasis in the book is on decision making to help you think about the future and compare alternatives. You will learn to customize your spreadsheets to help you address your specific questions. The questions are always changing, so the emphasis is on using Excel interactively to explore your options and potential outcomes.

Microsoft Excel Data Analysis and Business Modeling
Wayne L. Winston
Microsoft Press
2004 – 2014 (multiple editions)
602 pages
Learn about the full range of Excel features and techniques for making decisions, with examples on applying them. You find many of these techniques only here. There are many exercises with practice files on an included CD. The examples are interesting, many related to baseball. The emphasis is on data analysis, so it is most useful if you have collected a lot of data and want to understand what it all means. There are a lot of statistics, but they are all presented in a clear manner with examples. There are multiple editions of this book, corresponding to the versions of Excel.

Strategic Decision Making:
Multiobjective Decision Analysis with Spreadsheets
Craig W. Kirkwood
Duxbury Press
345 pages
Learn more about comparing apples and oranges. This book starts with normalized scores and weighted totals and takes it from there, taking into account uncertainty, constraints, risk aversion, and dependencies, with emphasis on understanding and mathematically describing preferences. It includes many business decision examples and exercises. This is the most technical/mathematical of the recommended books, but well worth the effort.

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