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5 Decision Pattern Families

Decision patterns allow us to quickly identify the type of decision being made and highlight:

  • Best practices for making the decision
  • Red flags, biases and dilemmas to watch out for
  • Potential metrics to use to track the success of the decision

Decision patterns abstract the details of our decision into shared characteristics we can use to apply to previous and future decisions.

But decision patterns can be abstracted further into families of decisions. A decision family is a group of decision patterns which share common features.

Some decision families include:

  • Choice
    A decision with multiple options, but where there are minimum constraints on future decisions and low opportunity costs. Yes/No and Multiple Choice patterns fall under the Choice family.
  • Path
    A decision with multiple options that constrains future decisions. Path decisions involve choosing a direction, but not a destination and often have high opportunity costs. The Go/No-Go, Fork in the Road and Call/Raise/Fold patterns fall under the Path family.
  • Route
    A decision where the start and end points are both known. Route decisions involve choosing the optimal path between one or more known points. The Direct Route and Multiple Point Route patterns fall under the Route family.
  • Portfolio
    A decision that allocates limited resources across multiple options. The Portfolio Selection and Portfolio Allocation patterns fall under the Portfolio family.
  • Schedule
    A decision that attempts to order options in time. Schedule decisions usually involve limited resources and attempt to optimize a metric related to the decision. The Critical Path pattern falls under the Schedule family.

You can use these families as a starting point to identify the broad type of decision you are making, then drill into a family to see which decision patterns best match your decision. Often multiple families and pattern may match a single decision as you look at it from different perspectives.

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