Choosing by Advantages (CBA) is a collaborative and transparent decision making system developed by Jim Suhr, which comprises of multiple methods. CBA includes methods for virtually all types of decisions, from very simple to very complex (Suhr 1999). Perhaps the most used CBA method is the Tabular Method, which is used to choose among two or more mutually exclusive alternatives that are not of equal cost. Examples of decisions where a team needs to choose from mutually exclusive alternatives are in everyday business include: choosing a building material, a general contractor, an equipment, a building design, and who to hire. The CBA Tabular Method can be used for moderately complex to very complex decisions, allowing for documenting these decisions in a transparent fashion.
The main purpose of the CBA method is to help decision makers to differentiate alternatives and to understand the importance of those differences. In CBA, decisions are based on advantages of alternatives, which are positive differences, not advantages and disadvantages; this avoids double counting. For example, let’s say John is 6 feet high, and Peter is 5 feet high, the difference in height is one foot. If we use the rule “the taller the better” as criterion for judgment, one foot difference can be seen as an advantage of John or a disadvantage of Peter. Therefore, in CBA we only count the one feet difference as an advantage of John.
Then we will find other differences between Peter and John, such as difference in speed or power, and we will set criteria for judgment to describe those differences as advantages. Once the advantages of each alternative are decided, decision makers need to assess the importance of these advantages by making comparisons among them. By following the CBA method, decisions are anchored to relevant facts, and decisions are particular to a given context, such as choosing a Basketball player for the school team.
In order to explain how to use the CBA Tabular Method, I will introduce a very simple example, explaining how Andy, a young engineer, chooses a car to buy following the CBA Tabular Method in 7 steps (Figure 1).