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The Decision Making Canvas: How to Choose the Right Method to Make Decisions

Making effective decisions starts by choosing the right method. Use this tool to define how you want to make decisions as a team.

By Gustavo Razzetti

March 3, 2021

What cooking methods can teach you about making better decisions

Cooking is a perfect analogy for making decisions. Choosing which cooking method to apply to a particular product is the most critical decision you can make in the kitchen.

People often blame the recipe when they are disappointed with a dish they cooked. The problem is that most amateurs fail to master essential cooking methods. However, choosing the wrong method – no matter how well you execute it – won’t help you achieve the right result, either.

The same principle applies to making decisions as a team. Mastering each method and knowing when to use it will improve your chances of success.

The Decision-Making Canvas will help you map and design how to make better decisions as a team. You don’t need to be a great cook to benefit from this tool.

The Decision Making Canvas: Intro

When I’m not consulting teams, I love to spend time cooking – creating new recipes and exploring cuisines from around the world. Finding the right ingredients and balancing flavors is always the challenge. However, once I define what I'm going to cook, choosing the proper cooking method is crucial to get the results I imagined.

Understanding how different products react to time and heat helps me make the right choice. Some techniques require high heat and a short time, while others need plenty of time at low heat.

You can apply the same principles to master the art (and science) of making good decisions as a team.

Start by considering the decisions you want to cook, as well as the complexity involved.

There are several cooking methods. To keep it simple, I selected four methods to create the Decision Making Canvas:

• Stir-Frying

• Grilling

• Simmering

• Braising

The four quadrants are defined by two variables that apply to both cooking methods and decision making: time (urgent/ not urgent) and complexity (high/ low risk).

the decision making canvas is a visual tool to help teams make better decisions as one based on complexity and time

Download the Decision-Making Canvas template in PDF format or access the MURAL template.

I will explain the basics of each cooking method and, most importantly, how to apply their principles to make better decisions as a team.


This method requires a hot temperature and a small amount of time. It’s ideal when you're under pressure and need to make quick decisions (like this chicken stir-fry).

The key about stir-frying is to have the ingredients cut into small pieces, making it easy to toss them around. In 15 minutes or less, you get excellent results. Think about decisions that require you to be decisive under pressure, considering small chunks of information, and acting fast to get the best result.

When to apply it:

- Simple or routine decisions

- For low-risk decisions

- When you don’t have much time

- When you can cut bigger decisions into smaller chunks


Most decisions are simple, regardless of whether or not they require input from others. Scheduling a meeting at a day and time that's convenient for most team members is made simple by using an app such as Doodle – the most voted time wins. Customer service decisions also fall into this category, like one employee solving a particular customer problem.


This method requires strong, direct heat. It’s not as fast as stir-frying and your chances of screwing up are high, especially when you're grilling a prime fillet mignon or a 3-pound Porterhouse.

Grilling is easy, but hard to do right. Searing both sides of the product is challenging: you have to strike a balance, getting a perfect crust on the outside while retaining all juices and flavors. Making decisions requires the right timing – analyze things without overdoing it.

If you rush the process and apply too much heat, you can burn the product. Also, everyone has a preferred doneness level. However, if you overthink things, you'll overdo it. The result will taste bad, too.

Grilling is also a metaphor for taking care of both sides to get an excellent result. Considering that the stakes are higher than for the “stir-frying” category, pay attention to opposing perspectives (or sources) before deciding.

When to apply it:

- Medium to complex decisions

- Medium/ high-risk decisions

- When you have time but cannot wait too long


When most team members are affected by a decision, or when everyone needs to support a new plan. It can also be used to define who will fill a new role within a team or assign projects to different groups.


This method is gentle and slow, requiring more time and low, constant heat. Think about reducing a sauce or cooking an ingredient that requires a lot of time to become tender (like soups and stews).

Simmering is ideal when time isn't an issue or there’s too little clarity to decide right now.

Avoidance – to put something on the back burner and let it simmer while you focus on other things – can sometimes be effective. Either because you need to ‘evaporate’ non-essentials to focus on what matters, or because you lack all the ingredients required to make a good decision. However, you cannot just let things simmer when time is of the essence.

When to apply it:

- When there are too many unknowns and you need time to gain clarity

- When you can’t take care of a decision, but the risk is low

- When it’s not urgent or critical

- Decisions that require everyone to be on board/ agree


There’s an open position in your team that’s not critical. Your colleagues are not yet excited about any of the people they interviewed. You decide to delay this decision until the team finds a better candidate, considering that the current workload is manageable.


This combination cooking method usually includes two techniques: searing a large piece of meat and then slow cooking in a liquid. A successful braise transforms both the ingredients being cooked and the cooking liquid itself into something harmonious (Ossobuco alla Milanese).

Braising is an ideal method to turn ingredients that are too tough to grill into tender, mouth-watering meals. Think about decisions that are too tough to make; with a two-step approach, they can become easier to digest.

The combination method metaphor also works for decisions that require a two-step approach: making a temporary decision now and getting more time to make the final call.

When to apply it:

- To move beyond binary decisions

- Complex problems that require multiple perspectives

- For decisions that will affect all the people involved

- You need to act now, but don’t need to make a final decision


Amid the pandemic, Gravity’s CEO, Dan Price, had to choose between laying off 20% of his employees or going bankrupt. His first decision was that neither options were good – he had to move beyond binary thinking.

Later, he confronted employees with the harsh truth and asked them for ideas. Together, they decided that each person would take a salary cut depending on their possibilities – some a small reduction, others a huge one. This collective dual-method helped the company avoid bankruptcy.

The Benefits of Mapping Decision-Making

The biggest challenge most teams have when it comes to making decisions is a lack of alignment. A key first step I take with the teams I work with is to agree on how they will decide.

I developed the Decision-Making Canvas to help your team members map all the decisions they make, select the right methods, and define who should make which decisions.

Gather your colleagues and discuss how you should make decisions.

Most decisions should fall into the “Stir-Frying” category – they are simple, routine decisions that should be done quickly, easily, and without requiring much consultation.

Many decisions will require a “Grilling” approach. Getting the right doneness requires mastery – the more people practice, the better results they’ll obtain. Team leaders should encourage people to propose solutions instead of being the ones providing permission or approval.

Sometimes, the team or some of the members might not be ready to make a decision. If the issues are not urgent, letting things simmer could be the right option. Especially, if there aren't significant consequences for avoiding making a decision now.

Big decisions require a “Braising” approach. Divide your decision-making into two parts. What’s the initial decision that you need to make now? Which can wait?

For example, your company could mandate that all team members should continue working from home. For now, avoid defining whether they’ll go back to the office, continue working remotely, or adopt a hybrid approach once the pandemic is under control.

Smart organizations decentralize decision-making, encouraging people to take initiative and ownership. It’s vital to agree upon which decisions the team leader should make by themselves, which should be made by the team, and which can be made by individual team members.

Tapping into collective wisdom ensures smarter outcomes. Even if one person owns a particular decision, getting advice from others will help them make wiser choices – especially for issues that will affect others.

Overall, mapping the way your team makes decisions facilitates alignment. It allows people to address concerns and define how authority is distributed – people don’t need empowerment, but the autonomy and authority to do their jobs.

How to Facilitate the Decision-Making Canvas with Your Team

Start by listing all types of decisions that your team makes – both frequent and non-recurring.

Introduce the Decision Making Canvas to the team, providing key characteristics and examples. Have them reflect on each method and share examples to ensure everyone is clear and comfortable.

Ask the team to categorize all the decisions listed by assigning them to one of the four quadrants in the canvas. Once they are finished, go one by one, checking if someone has objections or questions. Everyone must be aligned before moving to the next step.

Choose one quadrant and follow this sequence for each decision: define which method they want to apply (democratic, autocratic, consent, consultative, etc.) and who will decide (one person, a group of team members, everyone, the majority, etc.)

Here’s a list of key decision-methods to consider. Read this article to better understand how each one works.

Suggested methods per each group:

• For stir-frying: autocratic, delegation, democratic

• For grilling: consent, democratic, consensus, autocratic

• For simmering: avoidance, consultative, consensus

• For braising: autocratic, avoidance, consultative, consensus

Complete this exercise for all the decisions your team makes. Review, make necessary adjustments, and distribute the completed canvas so everyone’s on the same page.

Revisit the Decision Making Canvas from time to time to see what’s working – or what's not. Also, some things might have changed and require adjustments, like new decisions that need to be captured. Most importantly, discuss whether everyone is abiding by how they agreed to make decisions as a team.

Effective decision-making requires choosing the right method – just like cooking – to achieve the best result. Choose yours mindfully.

What do you think?



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