Making decisions together is a fundamental part of every team’s journey. Not only are they important from a strategic perspective, finding consensus is critical to moving the team and your projects in the same (and right) direction. After all, it’s only fair that if a decision is going to impact others and the progression of a project, they should have an opportunity to contribute to it.
By including your crew, not only will your teammates feel involved, but you’ll also expand your perspective by bringing in more expertise. When you’re dealing with big problems with even bigger ramifications, you want to hear from all the experts on your team, right?!
At Atlassian, we make use of a structured framework, the DACI Method (we pronounce it day-see), to help guide us to make the best decisions, especially when we hit a roadblock in a project. We use all the information we have mixed with a little teamwork to conjure up quality project outcomes. Not only does this framework guide us towards better decisions, but it also helps us all feel involved and have our voices heard.
Introducing: The DACI Method
This simple, but powerful, framework is how we make decisions as a team. DACI is an acronym:
✅ A: Approver
This acronym covers the roles of the teammates you should loop into this decision. Let’s unpack the significance of these four roles.
Every decision needs someone to be in charge and push the team to the best possible outcome. That’s the Driver in the DACI method. This person is in charge of spinning up a decision plan for the project, laying out the problem space, and herding the cats team.
Next up, you have the Approver. In many cases, this is your manager, or their manager, but it doesn’t have to be. This person (and it should be just one person, not several) will have the final say on which path the team should take based on all of the information presented by the Driver and Contributors. It really helps if your Approver is someone who has the right perspective of the business to get to the best outcome.
Then you have Contributors. These are colleagues who are experts in their given areas. You bring in these select experts to help you navigate the pros and pitfalls of each option. It’s really important to bring in the right people here so you don’t overlook something important and wind up regretting the decision.
Last, you have Informed. These people aren’t expected to contribute to the DACI decision, but should at least be aware of the direction your team is heading. Think managers or directors of adjacent teams who need to stay in the loop.
Before you learn the steps to make your first decision with the DACI method, let’s clarify when and where this kind of framework is helpful.
Not every decision requires the rigor of a process like this. Look to use this method when you’re making a big decision that has ramifications across teams, but not for smaller decisions with minor impacts.
For example, if you’re launching a new product feature and facing a delay, making that call could use the structure of the DACI method. On the other hand, the social media hashtag for your product launch probably doesn’t need this framework to brainstorm ideas and make a decision.
How To Use The DACI Method: Make Your Project Plan
First up, you need a clear, shared space where the team can easily collaborate and plan the project. You won’t get far using this framework behind closed doors.
Bonus: Try the Confluence Power-Up on your Trello boards to connect your organization’s knowledge with your project management.
If you’re starting your DACI framework from scratch, here are the key sections you need:
- Details: A section with the high-level details, including the current status, impact, all of the people involved (Driver, Approver, Contributors, Informed), due date, and the outcome (once decided).
- Background: Provide all the project context and background the team will need to make the right choice. A great background section will share relevant research, related decisions, information on constraints, etc. Err on the side of too much rather than too little detail here.
- Relevant Data: How will this potentially affect the business? Include any data or feedback you have that should be considered to make the decision.
- Options Considered: Here’s where you lay out your options. Use a table format to lay this out cleanly. For each option, you should include key details like a description, pros and cons, and estimated resources and financial costs.
- Action Items: If your team likes to spar as ours does, most DACIs will end up opening a handful of questions that need to be answered. List those in this section and track the answers as you get them.
- Outcome: A DACI isn’t complete without detailing the path forward for posterity. Summarize the decision (including explaining why this one was the choice) in this section.
Once your page and the structure of the project are ready, it’s time to start filling it out.
Define Your Roles
Next, identify your Approver and Contributors. Spend the time to find the right Contributors—you don’t want to risk missing something important because you kept your DACI too close to the vest. Diverse teams bring diverse perspectives which helps you and your team get closer to success.
Lastly, identify who should be Informed of the outcome. Think about others who may be impacted by the decision, specifically those outside your core team.
Make Your Plan
Now it’s time to set the stage and give context. At this point, you should work to fill out the entirety of your page—minus the Action Items and the Outcome sections (those come during and after the process, respectively).
This is the lengthiest part of using the DACI method, but don’t cut corners!
Leaving out relevant information, data, or people can cost you dearly in the long run. It’s OK to include more information than you think is necessary—especially if you’re working remotely across time zones.
Before we move on to the next step, I also want to emphasize that it’s important to include a due date for your decision. By not having one, you’re opening the window for others to not prioritize reviewing your DACI, which ultimately slows you down. Set expectations on when contributions are needed.
Here’s where you bring together all the participants. Start sharing your DACI with everyone and ask them to weigh in.
This part might make you a little nervous (when is getting feedback not at least a little nerve-wracking?), but it’s OK. Remember, teamwork makes the dream work. Collaboration makes the action happen? Yes. Cliches aside, we’re all better off when we openly work as a unit.
Working together, sharing ideas, and maybe a little healthy sparring (no swords in the workplace, please) can go a long way to really flesh out your options. You’re doing right by your team when you lead them through a decision-making framework like this.
After the team has weighed in, it’s time to let your Approver make the call. Once that’s done, be sure to summarize and share the outcome so the team knows. This is important—make sure the outcome is easy-to-find and discoverable by others.
Want to level up even further? Put the final decision in your project management tool, like Trello, so it’s easy to find and anyone on the project can reference the details. This should save you and the team from popping into a card comment or a Slack channel and asking the inevitable question: “Hey, what was the outcome again from that DACI?”
Look at you, so organized and prepared. Do you manage projects for a living or something?
Now, It’s Time To Work
Now that you have your decision, you’re ready to move forward. Using this method, you can be confident your team made the best decision with all the information available to them. Remember, reaching your big goals requires a team—and that includes owning the decisions you must make together.