Business Decision Mapping in 6 Steps

By Tim van Gelder  |  Posted 2009-02-11 Print this article Print

Business decision mapping in 6 steps

There is an alternative. It's one that works better for a wide range of decisions, whether in IT, strategy or even in one's personal life. Rather than discarding Franklin's method, we can extend and adapt it so it can handle more of the complexities of business decision-making.

Business Decision Mapping (BDM) is such an extension. It preserves Franklin's essential insight: that deciding usually involves the weighing up of diverse, usually qualitative considerations. It elaborates his method to handle multiple options and lower-level arguments and evidence. But it keeps the complexity under control by laying all this out in a special kind of diagram-a decision map.

Here, briefly, are the 6 most basic steps in BDM:

Step No. 1: First, frame the decision problem using an open question. It's not "Should we hire Jones?" but rather, "Who should we hire?" Even better, "What should we do about our tax accounting needs?" Put the question in a box, preferably with a question icon so that its status is always immediately apparent.

Step No. 2: Canvass the major actions you might take in response to the problem. Write these down in boxes, connected by arrows to the question. For each action, write down the most salient pros and cons. Draw arrows to the relevant option boxes. 

Step No. 3: Consider the major arguments bearing on the pros and cons. Add them to the map. 

Step No. 4: Consider the detailed pieces of evidence supporting the major arguments. Add them also.

Step No. 5: When this has been done as exhaustively and rigorously as circumstances allow, evaluate the evidence, arguments, and the pros and cons.

Step No. 6: Choose the most strongly supported options. In making these assessments, you might use Franklin's "cancelling out" approach.

Tim van Gelder, PhD, is Founder, Director and Chief Visionary Officer of Austhink Software. Tim is a cognitive scientist, consultant and software entrepreneur specializing in improving human thinking. Educated at the University of Melbourne (BA, 1984) and University of Pittsburgh (PhD, 1989), Tim held academic positions at Indiana University and the Australian National University before returning to Melbourne as an Australian Research Council QEII Research Fellow. Tim has conducted decades of research on how to improve thinking, particularly reasoning and critical thinking skills. In 1998, Tim set up The Reason Project at the University of Melbourne, which developed a software-supported method for improving critical thinking. Extensive empirical studies showed that this method reliably produces substantial gains in reasoning skills. Tim is recognized as a pioneer in argument visualization and critical thinking training. He has over 60 publications in cognitive science, and was winner of the 2001 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Critical Thinking. Tim's company, Austhink, has clients that include major organizations in the United States intelligence community, which have adopted Austhink techniques in their analytical training. He can be reached at

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel