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How to get started with the DACI decision-making model

PostsProject management
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

March 02, 2022

Pizza or burger? Beach or mountains? Stay in or go out? Making decisions isn’t easy at the best of times — let alone when a group is involved, and the answer requires more than a simple ‘yes or no.’ But when it comes to decisions that have a significant organizational impact, everyone has different ideas about the best way to move forward. Simply put, things can get a lot more complicated.

Fortunately, there’s a useful method for simplifying this process: the DACI Decision-Making Framework. The DACI model ensures everyone has a say while holding each person accountable for their part in the decision. Since no one person has the entire burden on their shoulders, it’s easier to move forward, and the team generally agrees about the choices being made.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the DACI Decision-Making Framework and how it can help managers and employees make decisions together more efficiently. We’ll also hold up a magnifying glass to the pros and cons and offer some tips to help you get the most out of it. Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

What is the DACI framework?

The DACI framework is a decision-making tool designed to help teams make more effective and productive decisions, especially for shared goals. The acronym DACI stands for Driver, Approver, Contributor, and Informed. The framework helps ensure everyone involved in the decision has a clear understanding of their role and what’s expected of them.

For example, suppose your team is considering whether or not to launch a new product. In that case, the DACI framework can help you gather feedback from everyone and weigh the decision from many different perspectives.

The DACI framework is valuable in both personal and professional settings. You can use it to clarify who is responsible for making a decision, who will contribute to it, who needs to be informed, and who will give it the green light.

What is the purpose of the DACI framework?

The DACI framework reduces delays and encourages individuals or teams to make decisions in an efficient manner. It also helps to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved. By bringing these key elements together, it builds consensus among team members.

The main features of DACI

DACI differs from other decision-making frameworks in that it encourages group involvement rather than detached analysis. It also:

  • Facilitates active listening skills
  • Clarifies responsibility for each step in the process
  • Provides an easily accessible reference structure for future use or accountability reviews
  • Makes it easy to identify indicators for measuring progress
  • Engages all relevant parties in the decision-making process
  • Gives due consideration to everyone’s opinions
  • Reduces oversight to prevent issues down the line

DACI often produces more positive outcomes compared to decisions made unilaterally (e.g., by managers) or through other less collaborative means (e.g., voting).

How to use the DACI framework

The DACI framework is adaptable to almost any situation. However, good communication is the key to using the framework effectively. Make sure everyone involved in the decision knows what they should be doing and agrees on the goals of the process. Then, communicate openly and often so that everyone remains informed.

The DACI framework is applicable in a variety of situations, such as:

The DACI framework is most effective as a team effort, but individuals also benefit from the methodology.

What are the roles in the DACI framework?

There are four roles in the DACI framework: decision-maker/driver, accountable executive, contributors, and informed observers.

The Driver is responsible for making the final decision. The Accountable Executive must make sure the Driver has all the information they need to make a decision. Contributors are responsible for providing information to the decision-maker. And finally, Informed Observers monitor the decision-making process to ensure it’s carried out properly. Let’s unpack those a little more…

Roles and Responsibilities in the DACI Decision Model explained

Driver: the Driver is the decision-maker. They’re in charge of making the final decision after considering all the information they received from other parties. The Driver is the person who initiates the decision — they come up with the idea and take it forward.

Accountable Executive: the Accountable Executive keeps track of the information the Driver needs to make a decision. While this person doesn’t have any authority to veto or approve decisions, they can provide feedback to the Driver to help them make an informed choice.

Contributors: the contributors are people who provide information to the decision-maker. Their job is to find data and resources that will be most beneficial in helping the Driver make a well-thought-out decision.

Informed Observers: the observers bring consistency and efficiency to the decision-making process by monitoring how it’s conducted. They aren’t involved in the decision but have the opportunity to offer feedback to the Accountable Executive and Driver to steer the process in a productive direction.

How does the DACI framework work?

The DACI framework depends on everyone sticking to their roles and respecting the process. Here are the four steps in the DACI decision-making process:

1. Define the decision: what are we deciding?
2. Assign stakeholders: who will contribute to this decision?
3. Clarify roles: what are each stakeholder’s responsibilities?
4. Make the decision: how will we move forward?

Below, we’ll expand on these steps.

1. Define the decision: what are we deciding?

The first step in the DACI framework is to define the decision you’re making. This might seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s common for stakeholders to disagree on priorities. So, don’t assume everyone understands the decisions on the table.

Consider a growing software development company that wants to expand its design team. Some stakeholders might think the next step is to generate a hiring budget and job descriptions for the new team members. However, the developers might believe the company needs an entirely new UI/UX design department, and their goal is to make decisions on how to structure this expansion process.

You can define the decision in a number of ways, but a good way to start is by listing all the possible options and narrowing it down from there. The important thing is to get everyone on the same page before continuing the process.

2. Assign stakeholders: who will contribute to this decision?

Once you’ve defined the decision, the next step is to assign the stakeholders who will contribute to it. We recommend creating a list or using a visualization tool, such as mindmaps or a work breakdown structure (WBS) diagram, to plot stakeholder relationships.

3. Clarify the roles: what is each person’s role in this decision?

Once you know who the stakeholders are and their roles, clarify what each job entails. Think about the types of data or resources you’ll need to make an informed decision. Based on these insights, you can make a list of responsibilities or action items for each stakeholder.

4. Make a decision: how will we make this decision?

Once you have all the necessary information, it’s time to make a team decision. You have a variety of options for completing this step, such as consensus or voting. Whichever method you choose, make sure everyone knows and agrees to the process in advance.

Limitations of the DACI framework

The DACI framework is not without its faults. Knowing these limitations will help you use the framework correctly.

  1. One potential pitfall is that it can be time-consuming to apply, particularly if there are a large number of people involved in the decision-making process.
  2. The framework can be challenging to use when there is no clear decision-maker or when decisions need to be made quickly.
  3. Finally, the framework may not be suitable for all types of problems. For example, it may be less effective for strategic decisions than operational decisions.

DACI framework best practice: 5 Essential Rules

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the process:

  1. Make sure everyone involved in the decision-making process understands and agrees with the framework. Use consensus wherever possible. If consensus isn’t possible, use the majority rule.
  2. Review decisions periodically to ensure they’re still appropriate. The framework promotes the idea that decisions should involve the people most affected by them and who have the most knowledge about the issue. New information can come up, or people who are important to the process could get left out unintentionally. Any change in the situation could affect the validity of your decision. So, stay open to improvement, and when necessary, re-evaluate decisions that have an ongoing impact on operations.
  3. Consider multiple perspectives when using DACI. For managers, it’s crucial to consider whether the negative consequences to other team members outweigh the potential benefits for themselves. Avoid hasty decisions based on assumptions and fully assess the information gathered throughout the process, rather than sticking to your judgment alone.
  4. When possible, explain the reasons for choosing the DACI model before implementing it. This can help establish trust between management and employees, which will make it easier to implement any necessary changes in the future.
  5. Use tools that make the job easier. Project management software is a great way to keep track of decisions and the people involved in making them. Cloud-based tools make it easy for internal and external stakeholders to stay on the same page. Everyone can gain access to specific parts of the project as needed.

DACI tools

DACI can be useful for managers and employees because it makes the decision-making process more efficient and creates a sense of shared responsibility, especially when decisions go wrong. When it comes to getting the most out of the framework, we can’t recommend project management software enough. Make everything from organizing documentation to delegating tasks a simple process by managing it all with one tool.

With Backlog, our own project management software, teams can vastly improve their workflow. Features like task management, real-time communication, and issue tracking allow the team to focus on what really matters: making decisions that help the business thrive.



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