Decision priorities

If you frame out a new business strategy or product launch as a Decision Network, you may identify 20 or even 50 decisions within your “Decision Breakdown Structure”.  Each of these decisions represents a fundamental question that demands an answer or solution; each of them will compete for your time and brainpower.

How should you prioritize these decisions?  You want to invest the appropriate level of effort on the most significant ones.  You want to avoid analysis paralysis, spending way too much effort on a low-value decision.

I consider 3 factors when I set decision priorities:

  • Decision Impact: What will be the negative impact on overall project, product or business success if I commit to an ineffective alternative that fails when implemented?
  • Innovation Opportunity: How much competitive advantage could I gain if I discover and implement a breakthrough, game-changing alternative for this decision?
  • Knowledge Gap: How complex is this decision?  How new is this decision to me or to the world?  How much research will be required of me to understand the stakeholders’ requirements or possible solutions?

I don’t use these factors to discern whether a decision is number 22 or number 23 on the priority list, but rather to highlight the vital few, the top 10% of the decisions that may drive 50% of the success of my project or the top 20% that may drive 80% of my success. (Pareto’s Law applied to decisions)

I also use these priorities to guide the way I tackle each decision and who I enlist to help.   A very high impact decision calls for lots of analysis rigor, careful due diligence.  Instead of a paper-only analysis, I may need to build/test (or model/simulate) several alternative prototypes to get real-world feedback.

A decision with very high innovation opportunity calls for the use of creativity techniques to form a rich set of diverse, “out-of-the-box” alternatives.  I may want to bring in outsiders who can help me brainstorm these fresh ideas.

A decision with a high knowledge gap may call for outside assistance from industry experts, consultants, academia or technology specialists.

Systems Engineers in defense and aerospace industries are familiar with the concept of a Trade Study Plan in which critical design decisions (aka trade studies) are identified and analysis plans are defined for each decision.  You can use the prioritization scheme described above to do a miniature Trade Study Plan for your project.  So before you dive into your decision model and tackle them with a “one-size-fits-all” approach, pause to set priorities first.

You can leverage the patterns available within the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF) to rapidly frame a Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS) for your project. Then set your decision priorities to get maximum results from your decision analysis investments. Begin today by contacting the Decision Driven® Solutions team at or to start your free trial of DDSF.

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