10 Decision Making Frameworks for Decisions That Drive Results

Updated on: 13 June 2024 | 10 min read
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In our daily lives, we make many choices. Having a structured approach can make a big difference. This is where using a decision making framework can come in handy. This guide explores such powerful decision making frameworks designed to help you make better decisions. Whether you’re experienced or just starting out, this guide will give you the knowledge and strategies to make impactful decisions.

What is a Decision Making Framework

A decision-making framework is a structured approach that guides you through the decision-making process by helping you identify priorities, gather information, weigh options, consider risks and rewards, and ultimately make a choice. It provides clarity and confidence, ensuring that decisions are well-informed and aligned with your goals.

Using a structured decision making framework can help overcome common challenges in decision making, such as information overload, analysis paralysis, and cognitive biases. By providing a clear and organized approach, these frameworks enable teams to make more confident and effective decisions.

10 Decision Making Frameworks You Should Know

1. CSD Matrix

The CSD matrix helps decision-makers systematically analyze decision contexts by categorizing factors into certainties, suppositions, and doubts. By identifying and assessing the impact of each element on decision outcomes, decision-makers can make more informed and robust decisions.

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  • Certainties: These are factors or variables that are known with a high degree of certainty. Certainties are aspects of the decision context that are well-established and have minimal uncertainty associated with them.
  • Suppositions: Suppositions are assumptions or hypotheses about factors that are not entirely certain but are believed to be true or likely to occur. Suppositions represent elements of uncertainty that decision-makers must consider when evaluating options.
  • Doubts: Doubts are factors or variables that are uncertain or unknown. They represent areas of ambiguity or lack of information that can influence the decision-making process.

2. Golden Circle

The Golden Circle, popularized by Simon Sinek, is a framework that focuses on understanding the “why” behind decisions before considering the “how” and “what.” It emphasizes starting with purpose and motivation to drive effective decision making.

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Golden Circle Decision Making Framework
  • Why: The Golden Circle emphasizes starting with the “why” – the purpose, beliefs, and motivations behind decisions. Understanding the deeper reasons driving actions inspires others and fosters a sense of purpose and commitment.
  • How: Once the “why” is clear, the focus shifts to the “how” – the strategies and actions needed to achieve objectives. This involves outlining plans, processes, and resources required to realize the vision.
  • What: Finally, the “what” encompasses the specific activities, products, or services that result from the decisions. By first clarifying the “why,” decisions become more meaningful and authentic, leading to greater engagement and success.

3. The Cynefin Framework

Developed by Dave Snowden, the Cynefin framework framework helps in understanding the complexity of decision-making contexts. It categorizes decision environments into five domains: simple (best practice), complicated (good practice), complex (emergent practice), chaotic (novel practice), and disorder (uncertainty). By recognizing the nature of the decision context, decision-makers can apply appropriate strategies and approaches.

  • Simple (Best Practice): Clear cause-and-effect relationships allow for straightforward decisions using established procedures.
  • Complicated (Good Practice): Experts and analysis are needed to understand cause-and-effect relationships and make informed decisions.
  • Complex (Emergent Practice): Decision-making involves experimentation, adaptation, and iteration in response to dynamic and unpredictable factors.
  • Chaotic (Novel Practice): Immediate action is required to restore stability and establish control in rapidly changing and unpredictable situations.
  • Disorder (Uncertainty): When the nature of the decision context is unclear, decision-makers must first categorize it using the Cynefin Framework before applying appropriate strategies from other domains.
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The Cynefin Framework

4. Decision Matrix

A decision matrix is a tool used to evaluate and prioritize multiple options based on several criteria. It helps in making complex decisions more manageable by providing a structured method for comparing different alternatives. Each option is scored against each criterion, and these scores are weighted according to the importance of the criteria. The option with the highest total weighted score is typically considered the best choice.

To use a decision matrix, first, list the options and identify the criteria for evaluation. Assign weights to each criterion based on their importance. Score each option against each criterion, then multiply these scores by the respective weights to get the weighted scores. Sum the weighted scores for each option to get the total score. The option with the highest total score is the preferred choice. This process helps in making objective, transparent, and well-informed decisions.

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RICE (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort) and ICE (Impact, Confidence, Ease) are prioritization frameworks used to assess and rank ideas or projects based on their potential impact, feasibility, and resource requirements.

RICE: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort are criteria used to prioritize ideas or projects. Reach refers to the number of people affected, Impact measures the potential value or significance, Confidence assesses the certainty of success, and Effort estimates the resources required.

ICE: Impact, Confidence, and Ease are similar criteria used for prioritization. Impact measures the potential value or significance of the idea, Confidence assesses the certainty of success, and Ease evaluates the feasibility or simplicity of implementation.

By quantifying and comparing these factors, teams can prioritize initiatives based on their potential impact, feasibility, and resource requirements, ensuring that limited resources are allocated effectively to projects with the greatest potential for success.

6. Decision Trees

Decision trees are graphical models that map out decisions and their potential consequences in a tree-like structure. They help in visualizing and analyzing decision-making scenarios, especially in situations with multiple options and uncertain outcomes.

Each branch of the tree represents a decision alternative or possible outcome, with associated probabilities and payoffs. Decision trees provide a visual framework for analyzing complex decision scenarios, allowing decision-makers to evaluate options, assess risks, and identify optimal strategies.

By systematically exploring decision paths and potential outcomes, decision trees facilitate structured decision analysis, enabling decision-makers to make informed choices that maximize expected value and minimize risk.

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7. Multi-Vote, Multi-Veto

Multi-vote and multi-veto techniques involve gathering input from multiple stakeholders by allowing them to vote or veto options. These methods help in democratizing decision making and ensuring that diverse perspectives are considered.

Multi-vote methods enable stakeholders to allocate a certain number of votes among different options based on their preferences or priorities. This helps in identifying the most favored or consensus-driven choices.

Conversely, multi-veto techniques empower stakeholders to veto options they strongly oppose or believe are unsuitable. This ensures that decisions are not made against significant objections or concerns and fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among stakeholders.

8. Impact Effort Matrix

The Impact Effort Matrix is a decision-making tool that helps prioritize tasks or projects based on their potential impact and the effort required to complete them. It provides a visual framework for evaluating activities to ensure that resources are allocated efficiently to maximize value.

The matrix is divided into four quadrants:

  • Quick Wins (high impact, low effort)
  • Major Projects (high impact, high effort)
  • Fill-Ins (low impact, low effort)
  • Thankless Tasks (low impact, high effort)

To use the Impact vs Effort Matrix, list all the tasks or projects under consideration. Evaluate and score each task based on its potential impact and the effort required. Plot these tasks on a two-dimensional grid with “Impact” on the vertical axis and “Effort” on the horizontal axis.

Tasks that fall into the Quick Wins quadrant should be prioritized as they offer significant benefits with minimal effort. Major Projects are important but require more resources and planning. Fill-Ins can be tackled when there is extra time or capacity, while Thankless Tasks should generally be avoided or deprioritized due to their high effort and low benefit. This method helps streamline decision-making by clearly highlighting which tasks will provide the most value for the least effort.

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9. OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act)

The OODA Loop, developed by military strategist John Boyd, stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. It is a decision-making framework designed to enhance responsiveness and effectiveness in dynamic and rapidly changing environments. The OODA Loop emphasizes quick adaptation to changing circumstances by cycling through four iterative steps:

  • Observe: This initial phase involves gathering information from the environment, including any relevant data, events, and conditions. Effective observation requires situational awareness, which helps in understanding what is happening in real-time.
  • Orient: In this step, the information collected during the observation phase is analyzed and synthesized. Orientation involves processing the data, considering past experiences, cultural influences, and the context of the current situation. This step is crucial as it shapes how the decision-maker perceives the situation and identifies potential courses of action.
  • Decide: Based on the understanding developed during the orientation phase, a decision is made regarding the best course of action. This step involves selecting the most appropriate response from the available options, weighing potential outcomes, risks, and benefits.
  • Act: The final phase involves implementing the chosen course of action. This step puts the decision into motion, leading to new observations and beginning the OODA Loop cycle again.

10. S.P.A.D.E - Setting, People, Alternatives, Decide, Explain

The S.P.A.D.E framework is a structured method designed to guide effective decision-making by systematically addressing key elements crucial to reaching informed and impactful conclusions. Each letter in S.P.A.D.E represents a critical phase in the decision-making process:

  • Setting: Define the decision’s purpose, scope, and constraints to align with organizational goals.
  • People: Identify and engage relevant stakeholders to gather input and assign clear roles.
  • Alternatives: Explore and evaluate multiple options based on predefined criteria like feasibility and risks.
  • Decide: Assess alternatives and select the optimal course of action using decision-making tools.
  • Explain: Communicate the decision’s rationale, expected outcomes, and implementation plan clearly to stakeholders.

The S.P.A.D.E framework offers a systematic approach to decision-making that enhances transparency, stakeholder engagement, and the quality of decisions made within organizations. By following each phase diligently, decision-makers can navigate complexities, mitigate risks, and achieve outcomes that contribute to organizational success and sustainability.

Tips for Using a Decision Making Framework

  • Understand the context: Before applying any framework, ensure you understand the nature of the decision you’re facing. Consider the complexity, uncertainty, and potential impact of the decision.
  • Select the appropriate framework: Choose the framework that best aligns with the characteristics of your decision context. For example, use the Cynefin Framework for understanding complexity, and RICE/ICE for prioritization.
  • Gather relevant information: Collect all necessary data and information related to the decision. This may include facts, figures, expert opinions, stakeholder input, and historical data.
  • Involve stakeholders: Engage relevant stakeholders throughout the decision-making process. Their perspectives and insights can provide valuable input and enhance decision quality and acceptance.
  • Apply the framework methodically: Follow the steps outlined in each framework systematically. This ensures thorough analysis and consideration of all relevant factors.
  • Be open to iteration: Decision-making is rarely a linear process. Be prepared to iterate and adjust your approach as new information becomes available or circumstances change.
  • Consider multiple perspectives: Encourage diverse viewpoints and consider the potential impact of decisions on various stakeholders. This helps in making more well-rounded and inclusive decisions.

By incorporating these decision making frameworks into your decision-making process, you can increase your chances of making decisions that drive results. Whether you’re a business leader, a project manager, or simply someone who wants to make better decisions in your personal life, a decision making framework will provide you with the tools and techniques you need to succeed.


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Amanda Athuraliya Communications Specialist

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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