Top Ten decisions list

Every engineer, designer, strategist or manager should “own” a set of decisions.  If you’re managing knowledge workers who are involved in the thinking that creates the future (decisions), you can empower them by making the decisions that they own explicitly visible.  Once visible, you can use these decisions as an effective management tool.

If you had deployed a decision-centric management process such as the one supported by Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF), these knowledge workers would already have a Decision Breakdown Structure (based on proven decision patterns) to give context to all their decisions and advance warning of the decisions they will face as their project evolves.  However, I know it’s quite a leap to move from less-structured document or requirement-focused processes to a pattern-based decision management philosophy.  In helping teams do this, I always recommend a Top Ten Decisions List as a simple technique that can create a some quick wins and build momentum toward broad effective use of decision patterns.

Here’s how to use a Top Ten Decision List to guide, motivate and grow your team:

  1. Every team member should maintain a list of their top 5 open decisions (decisions with no alternatives approved for implementation).
  2. Each decision should be framed as a “fundamental question/issue that demands and answer/solution”, i.e. it should be solution-independent and never a binary “Do A or B?” question.
  3. All knowledge workers should have at least 5 decisions for which they are assigned ownership, i.e. sole responsibility to lead the analysis and recommend (not necessarily approve) the solution.  If a team member can’t identify 5 open decisions, help them with their decision framing.  If you (the manager) can’t identify 5 meaty decisions to assign them, it’s time to re-evaluate your job design – an employee with no decision responsibility won’t grow much in value.
  4. Every team member should report periodically on their decisions, including their analysis plan/status, toughest criteria (traced to their source), leading alternatives, selection rationale and approval status (or roadblocks).  This gives the manager and other team members a chance to contribute their insights without usurping the leadership role of the decision owner.
  5. Once a decision has been made and approved, it should be moved to a second half of the list that includes the top 5 decisions to implement.  Giving decision owners the on-going responsibility for tracking, managing or accomplishing the implementation of their decisions reinforces a culture of accountability and organizational learning.  Allow no more anonymous decisions made by “them”.
  6. Maintain the top 10 decisions list (and its top 5 halves) on a “rolling wave” basis so employees are focused on the “vital few” thinking tasks for which they are responsible.  When decisions fall off the list and are replaced, toss them into an archive section or add them to the employee’s performance management records or internal resume.
  7. As a manager, look for ways to broaden or deepen the decision responsibility of staff.  Give them opportunities from project-to-project to lead the way on different types of decisions.

If you use the Top Ten Decisions List for 6-12 months, I believe you’ll see a significant growth in both the capabilities and morale of your team and also faster, higher-quality decisions and outcomes.

It’s easy to create your top ten decisions list with the Decision Management tools in the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). Leverage the readily available patterns within DDSF to quickly get started. Please contact the Decision Driven® Solutions team at or to begin your free trial of DDSF.

About decisiondriven

Innovator in Decision Management, Systems Thinking and System Engineering methods and tools
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