top of page


Updated: May 23

Understanding the Decision Style Inventory - DSI - Rick Roskin

Understanding the Decision Style Inventory (DSI) involves recognizing a tool that helps individuals and organizations identify their preferred methods of decision-making. This inventory, developed by Alan Rowe and Richard Mason, categorizes decision-making styles into four primary types: directive, analytical, conceptual, and behavioral. The directive style is characterized by a focus on efficiency and quick decision-making, often relying on limited information and a straightforward approach. Individuals with an analytical style, on the other hand, prefer to gather extensive data, thoroughly analyze options, and consider multiple outcomes before making decisions.

Conceptual Style

The conceptual style is marked by a broad perspective, creativity, and a long-term outlook, with decisions often based on intuition and innovative thinking. Behavioral decision-makers emphasize the impact of their choices on people, prioritize team consensus, and value open communication and collaboration. By understanding these styles, individuals can gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses in decision-making processes, leading to more effective and harmonious interactions within teams and organizations.

Tailoring Communication

The DSI can also help leaders tailor their communication and management strategies to better align with the decision-making preferences of their team members, fostering a more productive and cohesive work environment. Furthermore, organizations can use the DSI to build balanced teams with complementary decision-making styles, enhancing overall problem-solving capabilities and strategic planning. By appreciating the diversity in decision styles, companies can create a culture that values different perspectives and approaches, ultimately driving innovation and success. The Decision Style Inventory thus serves as a valuable framework for personal development, team dynamics, and organizational growth, promoting a deeper understanding of how decisions are made and how they can be improved.

Origins and Development of the Decision Style Inventory

The Decision Style Inventory (DSI) was developed by Rick Roskin as a tool to help individuals and organizations better understand their decision-making styles. Roskin's work is grounded in decades of research in psychology and organizational behavior, which highlights the importance of decision-making in leadership and management.

The development of the DSI was influenced by several key theories and models in the field of decision-making. One foundational influence is Herbert Simon's concept of "bounded rationality," which suggests that individuals make decisions within the constraints of limited information, time, and cognitive capacity. Another significant influence is the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky on heuristics and biases, which reveals how cognitive shortcuts can impact decision-making processes.

Roskin integrated these theoretical insights into a practical tool that assesses individual decision-making styles across various dimensions. The DSI was designed to identify how people approach decisions, the factors they consider, and the strategies they use to arrive at conclusions. By understanding these aspects, individuals can become more aware of their decision-making tendencies and develop strategies to enhance their effectiveness.

Since its inception, the DSI has been widely adopted in various organizational contexts, including leadership development, team building, and strategic planning. It is valued for its ability to provide actionable insights that can improve both individual and collective decision-making processes.


Structure and Components of the Decision Style Inventory

The Decision Style Inventory (DSI) is structured to assess decision-making preferences across several key dimensions. These dimensions reflect different approaches to processing information and making decisions. The main components of the DSI include:

1. Information Use:

   Analytical vs. Intuitive:

  • Analytical Decision-Makers: Prefer to gather and analyze detailed information before making decisions. They rely on data, facts, and logical reasoning.

  • Intuitive Decision-Makers: Rely on gut feelings, instincts, and experience to make decisions. They are comfortable with ambiguity and less detailed information.

2. Focus:

   Internal vs. External:

  • Internal Decision-Makers: Focus on their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. They are introspective and rely on personal judgment.

  • External Decision-Makers: Consider external factors, such as the opinions and feedback of others. They seek input from their environment and social context.

3. Decision Style:

   Directive vs. Participative:

  • Directive Decision-Makers: Prefer to make decisions on their own, providing clear instructions and expecting others to follow. They value control and efficiency.

  • Participative Decision-Makers: Involve others in the decision-making process, seeking input and building consensus. They value collaboration and inclusivity.


4. Risk Tolerance:

   Risk-Averse vs. Risk-Taking:

  • Risk-Averse Decision-Makers: Prefer to avoid uncertainty and potential negative outcomes. They make cautious and conservative decisions.

  • Risk-Taking Decision-Makers: Are willing to take risks and embrace uncertainty. They are open to bold and innovative decisions.


5. Temporal Orientation:

   Short-Term vs. Long-Term:

  • Short-Term Decision-Makers: Focus on immediate results and short-term goals. They prioritize quick wins and immediate impacts.

  • Long-Term Decision-Makers: Consider the long-term implications and sustainability of their decisions. They prioritize strategic planning and future outcomes.

Assessment and Interpretation:

The DSI assessment involves a series of questions designed to evaluate an individual’s preferences across these dimensions. Participants rate their agreement with various statements on a Likert scale, which helps identify their dominant decision-making style. The results provide a detailed profile of the individual's decision-making tendencies, highlighting strengths and areas for potential development.

Applications of the Decision Style Inventory

The Decision Style Inventory (DSI) has a wide range of applications in various organizational contexts. By leveraging the insights provided by the DSI, individuals and organizations can enhance their decision-making processes, improve team dynamics, and drive overall organizational success. Here are some practical ways to apply DSI insights:


1. Leadership Development:

  • Self-Awareness: The DSI helps leaders gain a deeper understanding of their own decision-making styles and how these styles impact their leadership effectiveness. This self-awareness is crucial for personal growth and development.

  • Adapting Leadership Styles: Leaders can use DSI insights to adapt their decision-making approaches to different situations. For example, a leader with a directive style may learn to incorporate more participative elements when collaboration is needed.

2. Team Building:

  • Enhancing Team Dynamics: By understanding the diverse decision-making styles within a team, leaders can foster better communication and collaboration. This understanding helps build trust and fosters a more cohesive work environment.

  • Leveraging Strengths: The DSI can highlight the unique strengths of each team member, enabling leaders to assign tasks and roles that align with individual decision-making preferences. This leads to more effective and efficient teamwork.

3. Strategic Planning:

  • Informed Decision-Making: Organizations can use DSI insights to inform strategic planning processes. By understanding the decision-making styles of key stakeholders, organizations can design strategies that are more likely to gain buy-in and support.

  • Balancing Perspectives: The DSI helps ensure that different perspectives are considered in strategic planning. This diversity of thought can lead to more innovative and well-rounded strategies.

4. Conflict Resolution:

  • Understanding Conflict Sources: The DSI can help identify potential sources of conflict within a team by highlighting differing decision-making styles. Understanding these differences can facilitate more effective conflict resolution strategies.

  • Mediating Disputes: Teams can use DSI insights to mediate disputes and find common ground, ensuring that conflicts are resolved constructively.

5. Talent Management:

  • Identifying High-Potential Employees: The DSI can be used to identify employees with strong decision-making capabilities, enabling organizations to nurture and develop future leaders.

  • Customized Development Plans: Insights from the DSI can inform the creation of personalized development plans, focusing on areas where employees need to strengthen their decision-making skills.

6. Performance Management:

  • Setting Clear Expectations: The DSI provides a clear framework for understanding individual decision-making styles and setting performance expectations. Leaders can use these insights to align their goals and objectives with their strengths.

  • Providing Constructive Feedback: The detailed assessment results from the DSI can be used to provide constructive feedback to employees, highlighting areas where they excel and identifying opportunities for improvement.

Challenges and Limitations of the Decision Style Inventory

While the Decision Style Inventory (DSI) is a valuable tool, it is not without its challenges and limitations. Some of the main concerns include:

1. Self-Report Bias:

  • Challenge: The DSI relies on self-assessment, which can be influenced by social desirability bias and the individual’s self-perception. Participants may overestimate or underestimate their decision-making tendencies.

  • Strategy: To mitigate this, organizations can supplement the DSI results with multi-source feedback from peers, subordinates, and supervisors to provide a more comprehensive view of decision-making styles.

2. Cultural Differences:

  • Challenge: The DSI may not fully account for cultural differences in decision-making behaviors and preferences. Different cultures have varying norms and values regarding decision-making, which can impact the applicability of the DSI.

  • Strategy: Adapting the DSI for different cultural contexts and using culturally sensitive approaches when interpreting results can help address this issue.

3. Contextual Factors:

  • Challenge: Decision-making styles can vary depending on the context and specific situation. The DSI provides a general assessment of preferences, but it may not capture all the nuances of decision-making in different contexts.

  • Strategy: Organizations should consider the context in which decisions are made and use the DSI as one component of a broader assessment strategy that includes qualitative feedback and situational analysis.

4. Dynamic Nature of Decision-Making:

  • Challenge: Decision-making styles can evolve over time due to various factors such as experience, training, and organizational changes. The DSI provides a snapshot of decision-making preferences at a given time.

  • Strategy: Regular reassessment and continuous development initiatives can ensure that DSI insights remain relevant and up-to-date.


Integrating the Decision Style Inventory with Other Assessments


To maximize the benefits of the Decision Style Inventory (DSI), it can be integrated with other assessments to provide a more comprehensive understanding of decision-making capabilities. Here are a few ways to combine the DSI with other tools:

1. 360-Degree Feedback:

  • Overview: This assessment gathers feedback from an individual’s peers, subordinates, and supervisors, providing a well-rounded view of their decision-making effectiveness.

  • Integration: Combining DSI results with 360-degree feedback can offer a more nuanced understanding of an individual’s strengths and areas for improvement, validated by multiple perspectives.

2. Personality Assessments:

  • Overview: Tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Big Five Personality Traits can provide insights into an individual’s personality and behavioral tendencies.

  • Integration: Understanding how personality traits influence decision-making styles can complement DSI results, helping to tailor development programs to the individual’s inherent characteristics.

3. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Assessments:

  • Overview: Emotional intelligence assessments measure an individual’s ability to understand and manage their own emotions and those of others.

  • Integration: Combining EQ assessments with the DSI can enhance understanding of how emotional intelligence impacts decision-making effectiveness, particularly in areas such as team leadership and communication.


4. Cognitive Ability Tests:

  • Overview: Cognitive ability tests measure an individual’s problem-solving and critical thinking skills, which are crucial components of effective decision-making.

  • Integration: Using cognitive ability tests alongside the DSI can provide a more comprehensive assessment of an individual’s decision-making capabilities.

5. Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs):

  • Overview: SJTs present individuals with hypothetical scenarios and ask them to choose the best course of action. These tests assess decision-making and problem-solving abilities in specific contexts.

  • Integration: Combining SJTs with the DSI can provide a more detailed assessment of an individual’s ability to handle real-world decision-making situations.

  • By integrating the DSI with these complementary assessments, organizations can develop a more holistic view of decision-making capabilities, leading to more informed and effective development initiatives.


Being Decisive

The Decision Style Inventory (DSI) developed by Rick Roskin is a powerful tool for assessing and understanding decision-making preferences. By focusing on key dimensions such as information use, focus, decision style, risk tolerance, and temporal orientation, the DSI provides a comprehensive framework for understanding and improving decision-making processes.

While the DSI presents certain challenges, such as potential biases and the need for contextual considerations, its benefits far outweigh these limitations. By integrating the DSI with other assessments and using it as part of a broader development strategy, organizations can maximize its impact and drive significant improvements in decision-making effectiveness.

Effective decision-making is more critical than ever in a competitive landscape. The DSI offers a valuable tool for individuals and organizations to gain insights into their decision-making styles, receive constructive feedback, and develop the skills necessary to make informed and strategic decisions. By embracing the principles of effective decision-making and continuously developing their capabilities, leaders and organizations can unlock their full potential and create a positive, high-performing work environment that fosters growth and innovation.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page