What is the DACI Decision-Making Framework?
The DACI decision-making framework is a model designed to improve a team’s effectiveness and velocity on projects, by assigning team members specific roles and responsibilities when it comes to group decisions.
The names for these roles and responsibilities form the acronym DACI: Driver (the person who drives the decision), Approver (the person who makes the decision), Contributors (the people or teams whose work or knowledge aid in the project), and Informed (the people whose work might be affected by these decisions and who therefore need to be kept in the loop).
Brief History of the DACI Model
Developed at Intuit, the DACI framework originated as a variant of the RACI responsibility assignment matrix.
Like DACI, RACI gets its name from the descriptions of each of the four types of roles assigned in a project: Responsible (the people who do the work), Accountable (the person who owns the success or failure of the project’s outcome), Consulted (the experts who offer their knowledge to guide the project), and Informed (the people who need to be updated on the project).
According to product management experts Brian Lawley and Pamela Schure, the RACI system can work well for many types of business projects. But product management teams face added challenges, because they are continuously pushing forward on several fronts at the same time, many of which require strategic decisions. Because it emphasizes decision clarity, Lawley and Schure explain, the DACI model often represents a better framework for product managers.
Roles and Responsibilities in the DACI Decision Model
In the DACI group-decision model, the Driver is the project leader.
This person does not have approval authority (that belongs to the Approver), but serves more as a project manager. A Driver, for example, will schedule and run project meetings, gather and distribute ideas, assign tasks, and track the team’s progress.
The Approver is the person in the DACI model who has the final say on a given aspect of the project.
A project might have more than one Approver—for example, the company’s two co-founders—but because the DACI model is designed for speedy decision making, the fewer Approvers, the better.
These are the people in the organization who may be consulted for their opinions, expertise, or unique vantage points to help with project decisions.
The Driver has responsibility for selecting Contributors and determining how to incorporate them into the group decision-making process—for example, whether to invite them to project meetings to share their thoughts with the team, or to gather their insights offline.
These are people across the organization who are not directly involved in the project, and who have no authority over the team’s decisions, but who want or need to be updated on the project’s progress because it might affect their own work.
For a product management team working on a product, their Informed group might include people in sales and marketing, customer support, or other teams not involved with developing the product but whose own planning and resource allocation could depend on knowing the status of the product’s development.
How to Use the DACI Model to Make Group Decisions
Step 1: Break the project into tasks, and assign each a Driver.
After you’ve established the DACI roles among your project’s team, you’ll first want to agree on a Driver to spearhead the overall project.
Then you’ll want to break the project down into a task-level plan. You won’t need to create deadlines or assign specific resources at this point; the goal here is just to get your team to agree on the set of action items to prioritize so you can start moving the project forward.
Also, at this stage, you’ll want to assign a Driver to each of these tasks. This way, tasks are less likely to fall between the cracks, because each one has a champion or advocate responsible for moving it forward.
Step 2: Assign both Approvers and Contributors to each task.
Now the team should agree on the Approver (ideally, one per task) and Contributors assigned to each task.
The Driver can, of course, add or remove Contributors at any time, as the team makes progress or the project’s needs change. But it’s better to start each task knowing the team has at least some expert sources to consult when needed.
Step 3: Define the actual workflow
Now the project’s main Driver starts developing the action plan, answering such questions as:
- Will we have a kickoff meeting? Who should attend? How often should we have team meetings once the project is underway?
- How will we work with our Contributors?
- How will we track these tasks? With a project management application like Trello? On a spreadsheet? Using our roadmap software?
- How will we keep our Informed updated as things change with the project?
- What process should use for our decision-making process? Should we arrange a brief meeting between our Approver and Contributors for each decision? Should the Driver simply pass on the team’s advice to the Approver and wait for a decision?
The DACI framework can help teams complete complex projects more efficiently and quickly, by bringing a clear and definitive process to group decisions. Given the continuous demand for product managers to make strategic decisions on many fronts, the DACI model can be an ideal tool to streamline and improve product managers’ processes.