The design process is a sideways funnel. My mentor drew the diagram much better than I did ;)

Decisions Decisions: How to Facilitate Decision Making in Design Reviews

While design reviews are managed differently on every team and in every company, they’re generally directed toward one goal — making decisions.

A mentor of mine once drew the design process as a funnel progressively narrowing down until you have a solution that a team is executing on. At each point of narrowing, in order to move into the next phase, a decision is needed on how to proceed. Yet how many of us have been in countless meetings where it seems like a decision is nowhere in sight?

In design reviews, stakeholders and decision makers often need the help of the design team in order to surface what the team needs an answer on.

Lead the horse to water, and they will drink.

Set the Context

When beginning a review, set the context. No matter how deep you are into the design process, it will both help get everyone on the same page, and help focus feedback if you set context on:

1) the problem you are trying to solve
2) what phase you are in on the project
3) key decisions that have been made to get you to this point

The third point is particularly helpful if decisions have been made that are related to external factors or potentially seem contradictory to how you would otherwise solve a problem. For example if you are designing a messaging app, an earlier decision to include messaging as a feature within an existing app as opposed to a standalone app makes a huge difference in the feedback people might have on what they are reviewing.

Frame Desired Feedback/Decisions

Right alongside context setting is articulating the type of feedback you are looking for from the group. Is this review more of an FYI, or do you need help narrowing down on a broad set of ideas to one solution? This is where you cut right to the chase and dig into the decisions you hope to have by the end of the meeting.

It is important to frame this into the agenda or goals of the meeting at the start so the decision makers are paying attention to what to look out for. Do you need to narrow down logo options, or get approval on a plan to staff up a team? Both are very different questions that will need a different lens from our audience to help decide on.

Recap Decisions

Have you ever been in a meeting where you think a decision has been made, but when you go back to your desk, you’re not so sure? Come on, you know you have. It is critical to recap decisions to ensure you understood what was decided and can move forward in the right direction; and give stakeholders an opportunity to reaffirm what they committed to during a review.

If in the end of the meeting all of the decisions made no longer hold up, it is far better to know right then and there rather than weeks down the line. If this is the case, discuss next steps and information needed in order to make a decision in the next review.

**

Decision making is hard, no matter what you are working on. But it is a critical step in coming to solutions in designing products so you can finish them and get them out into the world. At each step in the process, the goal is to get closer and closer to the finish line, ensuring stakeholders and decision-makers are onboard along the way.

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