The ORAPAPA Method

The importance of good decision making in business really can’t be overstated. The unfortunate fact of life in business is that only one bad decision is necessary in order to send your organization in the wrong direction. You might make plenty of good decisions along the way, but one bad decision – at the wrong time, or on the wrong issue – can send you into a tailspin from which you might not recover. With that in mind, it is important that you do your best to make every single decision a good one.

The ORAPAPA Method of Decision Making

To do so, you need to have some tools at your disposal. One of the tools that you may choose to use is the ORAPAPA method. This is a tool which has been designed to make sure you don’t overlook one or more important aspects of the decision at hand. It is easy to rush to make a decision without considering all relevant information properly, and this tool is meant to help you avoid that kind of mistake. By the time you have worked your way through this model completely, you should be able to confidently make your final choice.

The title of this method – ORAPAPA – is an acronym which covers seven areas of decision making. Those are as follows –

  • Opportunities
  • Risks
  • Alternatives
  • Past Experience
  • Analysis
  • People
  • Alignment

It is important to understand the importance of each of the seven areas, and work through them logically to arrive at a decision.

Stages in the ORAPAPA Method


This is a time to be positive. What are you going to stand to gain by making a specific decision? If everything goes right with the decision that you are planning to make, how will your organization benefit? You should be taking a ‘glass half full’ approach at this point, thinking about things from a positive perspective. Of course, you should be able to find plenty of options that are related to the decision you might make, otherwise the decision isn’t going to be worth making in the first place.


Naturally, you are going to need to look at the other side of the coin. This is a step that many managers and owners never want to take, because they expect things to always come up roses. After thinking about the opportunities that you will open up thanks to your decision, you need to assess the risks that are going to come along with that choice. How will you be exposing your company to risk if you make a specific choice? Are the risks going to be worth the potential rewards? Every organization has to balance risk and opportunity, so think carefully about both halves of this equation.


One of the biggest mistakes that is made during the decision making process is closing yourself off to other options right from the start. When you get an idea in your head as to how you are going to proceed, it can be hard to remain open minded enough to allow other thoughts to come through as well.

Looking at Alternative Options

At this point in the process, do your best to open your mind and think of all possible alternatives to the initial idea that you have had for this problem. Do any of the alternative solutions offer better potential outcomes than your first thought? What risks are going to come with these alternatives? Take as much time as you need to think through other ideas before you move on.

Past Experience

Failing to learn from the past is a major mistake in business, and in life. History has a way of repeating itself, so make sure you learn from any past experience that relates to this choice. Has a similar situation presented itself in the past? How was that decision handled, and what was the outcome? Very often, you don’t have to make the decision from scratch because something similar has happened previously.


You never want to ignore the data that you have on hand for a given choice. Make sure to utilize all of the data that you can collect on the topic, even if you aren’t going to make your decision based solely on data alone. The best decisions are usually a blend of data and human input, so try to bring together both halves of this equation properly as you are making your choice. Ask the right people to provide you with the numbers you need to include in your thinking.


Even if you are going to be making a decision largely on your own, you can still include the opinions of a variety of people as you try to come to a final decision. Ask people you trust for their input, and think about the various opinions that you have heard throughout the process.

Deciding Who to Include in the Decision Making Process

Does everyone you talk to seem to see the issue differently from how you see it? If so, it might be worth taking a closer look at their viewpoint to see if you can change your own mind. Or, at the very least, you may need to soften your stance in order to wind up somewhere in the middle.


As an organization, you already have a culture and overall strategy in place – is your decision going to fit with those established elements? You likely don’t want to make a decision that is going to be a complete departure from what you are used to doing in the organization, so you need to frame the choice within the context of your business.

Aligning the Decision with the Aims of the Organization

It is hard to imagine going too far wrong when you use the seven points within this tool to make a decision. No one makes the right decision 100% of the time, but you will be able to be far more successful with your choices when you take the time to go through this entire model. All of the relevant information will have been considered by the time you reach the end, and you will likely have changed your mind at least a few times along the way. Making the best decision for the organization is the ultimate goal, and the ORAPAPA method should help you toward that end.

Key Points

  • This ORAPAPA method has been designed to make sure you don’t overlook one or more important aspects of the decision at hand.
  • The acronym stands for: Opportunities, Risks, Alternatives, Past Experience, Analysis, People, and Alignment.
  • Opporunities: What are the positive consequences, the benefits you get if you make the decision?
  • Risks: What are the negative consequences or drawbacks?
  • Alternatives: Are there any ways to avoid or minimise the risk?
  • Past experience: Can you base this decision on past experience to mitigate the risk?
  • Analysis: The best decisions are usually a blend of data and human input, so gather as much data as necessary and analyze it properly.
  • People: How will this decision appear to other people like coworkers, customers and suppliers?
  • Alignment: Does this fit in with the organization’s objectives and is this an ethical decision?
  • By the time you have worked your way through this model you should be able to confidently make your final choice.

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