Inclusive Template for Company-Wide Decision Making

Xiao Ma

Sr. Director of Engineering at 4C Insights



There were several problems that eventually led us to create such a template for tackling decision-making processes in a singular setting.

  1. Sometimes a project is very large and can spread across multiple teams. It can be difficult for everyone to understand what decision has been made if one hasn’t already been made, then what decision needs to be made, and who the key people in the conversation are. It’s not easy to consistently broadcast all of this data and we weren’t even always sure who was looking for this type of information.
  2. More often than not, Adhoc decision discussions in Slack are time-consuming, interruptive to the regular workflow, and usually lead to dead ends.
  3. When a project carries on for many months, the conversation often circles back to discussing the same decision. This became an issue for us because there was little to no documentation on why we had made a decision or its accompanying results.
  4. Decisions were taking a very long time to be made because there was no true person accountable for making the final decision.
  5. We could not make quick, in-office decisions with so many distributed teams. There was no place for data to be well- communicated across teams.

Actions taken

We ended up creating a template to be used for shared documentation on decisions for each project. This is where we list all the major questions and major decisions for projects. For every unique decision that has to be made, we highlight the following:

  • The decision options
  • The problems that need to be solved
  • The decision that is going to be taken or a deadline for decisions yet to be made
  • The person responsible for making the final decision
  • The other teams who depend on this decision
  • The people who we are blocking, if any
  • The people that need to be consulted
  • The people that should be informed

Within each singular decision-making process, we have a very simple template where people can propose their opinions. If there are alternatives, they can be added to a list where the pros and cons are clearly stated for each of them. Later, they are to be voted on by the teams.

Sometimes, a system doesn’t have an alternative, and for that, we take part in a discussion under that particular decision name. Discussions can be copied and pasted from other forums, but ideally, the template is the all-inclusive, decision-making thread where all information should be stored. Once we have made a decision, we will broadcast it over a team channel and if more details are wanted, it can be accessed through the template.

We never pursue a global consensus. There is only one person held accountable for each decision and they are in charge of making sure that a decision is made by the specified deadline. If there is no consensus, then that person is the one that the team has chosen to trust in arriving at a final decision.

Lessons learned

  • When people find themselves in very sensitive, debatable topics, they can go back to the template where concrete discussions and decisions are already established. In knowing that, I see a lot of people reverting back to the template and updating it with information from other conversations. This has been extremely helpful in making this project function as it should.
  • The template has greatly benefited our distributed team members. They are able to enter at any time for an up to date evaluation of things. They feel as if they are actually with the team through the entire process.
  • I am never really the person accountable for making the decisions, but what has benefited me is that I feel teams have become more collaborative. Subsequently, there has been less time wasted on continually debating things that aren’t leading to results. The team is in tune with that ‘one team, one dream’ attitude and can productively work together.
  • I have also seen removed pressure from product managers or design heads. As the one being held accountable, they can be less involved because once the decision is made, everyone should be on the same page, thus eliminating having to go back and forth on the topic.

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Xiao Ma

Sr. Director of Engineering at 4C Insights

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