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Rational planning model

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Title: Rational planning model  
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Subject: Guy Benveniste, Environmental manager, Urban Planning, Healthy community design, Growth management
Collection: Decision Theory, Transportation Planning, Urban Studies and Planning
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Rational planning model

The rational planning model is the process of realizing a problem, establishing and evaluating planning criteria, creating alternatives, implementing alternatives, and monitoring progress of the alternatives. It is used in designing neighborhoods, cities, and regions. The rational planning model is central in the development of modern

  1. ^ Robbins, Stephen P.; Timothy A. Judge (2007). Organizational Behavior (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 156–8.  
  2. ^ Brooks, Michael P. (2002). Planning Theory for Practitioners. Chicago: American Planning Association. pp. 175–6. 
  3. ^ Suchman, Lucy (2007). Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situation Action (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^ Benveniste, Guy (1994). Mastering the Politics of Planning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 


  • See working paper #2 at


See also

While the rational planning model was innovative at its conception, the concepts are controversial and questionable processes today. The rational planning model has fallen out of mass use as of the last decade. Rather than conceptualising human agents as rational planners, Lucy Suchman argues, agents can better be understood as engaging in situated action.[3] Going further, Guy Benveniste argued that the rational model could not be implemented without taking the political context into account.[4]

Current status

  • requires a great deal of time
  • requires great deal of information
  • assumes rational, measurable criteria are available and agreed upon
  • assumes accurate, stable and complete knowledge of all the alternatives, preferences, goals and consequences
  • assumes a rational, reasonable, non – political world

However, there are a lot of assumptions, requirements without which the rational decision model is a failure. Therefore, they all have to be considered. The model assumes that we have or should or can obtain adequate information, both in terms of quality, quantity and accuracy. This applies to the situation as well as the alternative technical situations. It further assumes that you have or should or can obtain substantive knowledge of the cause and effect relationships relevant to the evaluation of the alternatives. In other words, it assumes that you have a thorough knowledge of all the alternatives and the consequences of the alternatives chosen. It further assumes that you can rank the alternatives and choose the best of it. The following are the limitations for the Rational Decision Making Model:

Requirements and limitations

  1. Planner defines the problem (not goal)
  2. Planner considers several alternatives and analyzes each
  3. Preliminary choices of the alternative for best fit considering feedback and impact of the client group
  4. Planner designs and implements course of action in the form of an experiment
  5. Evaluation of effects of the course of action. Did it alleviate the problem? Any feedback from course of action?
  6. On the basis of the feedback should the project or course of action be continued, changed, etc. If effective institutionalize the course of action.[2]

Modify the decisions and actions taken based on the evaluation.


This step contains the secondary and final monitoring of the outcomes and results of the site. This step takes place over a long period of time.

Monitor and evaluate outcomes and results

This step includes final implementation to the site and preliminary monitoring of the outcome and results of the site. This step is the building/renovations part of the process.

Implement the preferred alternative

Based on the criteria of assessment and the analysis done in previous steps, choose the best solution generated. These four steps form the core of the Rational Decision Making Model.

This step comprises a final solution and secondary implementation to the site. At this point the process has developed into different strategies of how to apply the solutions to the site.

Choose the best solution generated

Evaluative criteria are measurements to determine success and failure of alternatives. This step contains secondary and final analysis along with secondary solutions to the problem. Examples of this are site suitability and site sensitivity analysis. After going thoroughly through the process of defining the problem, exploring for all the possible alternatives for that problem and gathering information this step says evaluate the information and the possible options to anticipate the consequences of each and every possible alternative that is thought of. At this point optional criteria for measuring the success or failure of the decision taken needs to be considered.

Generate objective assessment criteria

This activity is best done in groups, as different people may contribute different ideas or alternative solutions to the problem. Without alternative solutions, there is a chance of arriving at a non-optimal or a rational decision. For exploring the alternatives it is necessary to gather information. Technology may help with gathering this information.

This step encloses two to three final solutions to the problem and preliminary implementation to the site. In planning, examples of this are Planned Units of Development and downtown revitalizations.

Generate all possible solutions

The very first step which is normally overlooked by the top level management is defining the exact problem. Though we think that the problem identification is obvious, many times it is not. The rational decision making model is a group-based decision making process. If the problem is not identified properly then we may face a problem as each and every member of the group might have a different definition of the problem. Hence, it is very important that the definition of the problem is the same among all group members. Only then is it possible for the group members to find alternate sources or problem solving in an effective manner.

Verifying, defining & detailing the problem (problem definition, goal definition, information gathering). This step includes recognizing the problem, defining an initial solution, and starting primary analysis. Examples of this are creative devising, creative ideas, inspirations, breakthroughs, and brainstorms.

Verify, define, and detail the problem

Rational decision-making or planning follows a series of steps detailed below:



  • Method 1
    • Verify, define, and detail the problem 1.1
    • Generate all possible solutions 1.2
    • Generate objective assessment criteria 1.3
    • Choose the best solution generated 1.4
    • Implement the preferred alternative 1.5
    • Monitor and evaluate outcomes and results 1.6
    • Feedback 1.7
  • Requirements and limitations 2
  • Current status 3
  • See also 4
  • Sources 5
  • References 6

This multi-step model and aims to be logical and follow the orderly path from problem identification through solution. Rational decision making is a multi-step process for making logically sound decisions that aims to follow the orderly path from problem identification through solution [1]

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