DACI Decision-making Framework
Projects and larger initiatives involve lots of decisions. The DACI is a framework for making them efficiently and effectively.
AND I NEED THIS... WHY?
If you've ever found yourself standing at the counter of your favorite sandwich shop tormented by the question of whether to get the Reuben or the turkey, you know this universal truth: decisions are hard.
Decisions at work are even harder because the stakes feel higher. Then you add the opinions of teammates, stakeholders, customers, and your boss to the equation... yikes.
If we don't approach decisions about our projects with urgency, they stall out because nobody is making the call on things. And if we don't agree on whose call it is, we end up revisiting decisions over and over, which further delay our progress.
By clarifying who-plays-what-role in each decision up front, we have a better shot at making the right decisions, and making them at the right time – like choosing the Reuben, which is the right call every time.
WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?
Pull in the entire project or leadership team for this one.
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DACI Framework template
BUT FIRST, THIS
WHAT DOES "DACI" STAND FOR?
- D = Driver. The one person responsible for coralling stakeholders, collating all the necessary information and getting a decision made by the agreed date. This may or may not be the project's full-time owner, depending on the decision.
- A = Approver. The one person who makes the decision.
- C = Contributors. They have knowledge or expertise that may influence the decision – i.e., they have a voice, but no vote.
- I = Informed. They are informed of the final decision.
The DACI only works if everyone on the team rallies behind decisions once they're made – even if they don't agree. Without a willingness to share concerns and trust they'll be considered, your team will find itself mired in a bog of circular debates and inaction. Team members may even pursue their preferred option on the sly, in the hopes the official decision is a failure. Make sure everyone is prepared to fully committed to whatever is decided so you can skip the bullshit politics.
"DOES THIS NEED A DACI?"
It's a question we often find ourselves asking.
As you consider whether a decision needs the full-on DACI treatment, take the timeliness and impact into account. Decisions that affect the work of multiple people on the project (e.g. "Where should we hold our user conference next year?") probably need a DACI. Smaller, isolated decisions (e.g., "What will the conference's social media hashtag be?") do not.
Create a page to track your decision (5 min)
Most projects benefit from documenting what's being considered, relevant research, trade-offs, recommendations, etc. This makes it easier for the core team to provide feedback on options and helps stakeholders understand the final decision.
Open up a new page in Confluence (or your documentation tool-of-choice) and insert a 2x4 grid at the top – or create the page using the DACI Blueprint for Confluence. Label the rows in the left column as Driver, Approver, Contributors, Informed. You'll add more to this page in the coming days/weeks as you work through the decision.
Not a Confluence user? No worries. Download the DACI template in PDF format instead.
Creating your DACI page is dead-simple using the DACI Blueprint for Confluence.
Define roles for the decision (10 min)
Who is the driver?
Agree on one person per decision. They don't necessarily drive the entire project – just that decision.
Who is the approver?
Again, one person per decision.
Who are the contributors?
This may be multiple people per decision, and may even include someone from outside the core team. Anyone with relevant knowledge or experience is fair game.
Who should be informed?
This is anyone directly affected by the decision. Note that this may include people outside the core team.
Make your plan of attack (15 min)
Think about all the information you'll need to gather in order to make the decision. If you're not using the DACI blueprint for Confluence, mark off the following sections on your page. You don't need to fill them out right now, but feel free to add notes in each one.
- Due date – the deadline for making the decision.
- Background – the reason(s) this decision is required.
- Current state – where you're at right now.
- Supporting data – the research you've done to inform your decision.
- Options considered – a table with a column for each option where you can summarise pros n' cons, risks, trade-offs, estimated cost or effort, etc.
- Recommendations – opinions from your contributors.
- FAQs – a place to answer frequently-asked (or anticipated) questions.
- References – a list of links out to reference material, along with a brief description of why it's relevant.
- Action items – a list of tasks or follow-ups related to the decision.
- Outcome – a place to state which option you ultimately go with.
Get your team involved
Send the page around to your team, asking for feedback and input. If you'll need specific people to help fill in specific sections of the page, now is the time to let them know.
If at some point you feel like things have stalled out or you're going in circles, get the driver and contributors in a room together. If you're close to making the call, it might be helpful to include the approver, too. Let people express their concerns, recommendations, ideas for other options to consider, etc. An hour of hashing it out in person can save you days of comment (or – horrors! – email) threads, and get your decision back on track.
...then take a deep breath! The DACI play can be a stressful, especially if decisions are contentious or politically-charged. You just did your team a great service by taking time to lay down a clear framework to work through.
Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.Find your Health Monitor
In the context of providing services like desktop support or recruiting, a matrix of DACIs helps front-line service team members understand which calls they can make independently and when they should involve teammates or a manager. Note that the full decision page described above isn't needed for each decision in your matrix. A brief description, plus the D, A, Cs, and Is for each scenario is usually enough.
Create a DACI matrix on a per-service basis (vs. a per-project basis). Think of your deliverable as a set of escalation paths and procedures for communicating information after those independent decisions are made.
A service team's DACI matrix is relatively static, but it's not carved in stone. Review and revise your DACI annually for services that are established and stable. For new service teams, we like to review the DACI quarterly or twice-yearly during the first year.
Optional. Larger initiatives that affect multiple groups or departments (lookin' at you, leadership teams!) often benefit from a decision register page. It serves as a portal that makes it easy for team members and stakeholders to access detailed information about each decision.
On your decision register, include a brief summary of the project (such as your elevator pitch). Below that, link off to the page detailing each decision. Also note each decision's status, level of impact, driver, approver, and due date. You might also include a legend defining important terms – e.g., what exactly does it mean when a decision is labeled "high impact".
Team health is contagious. Pass it on.
Go viral on social media, or email this page to your teammates.