Updated: Aug 11, 2020
Life as a Founder or product owner is filled with daily decisions to test your leadership - each could make or break your business. In this blog, I’d like to share an excellent framework for your most important decisions. Next week, we’ll talk about how you can apply this tool in a GoToMarket context. In my previous companies, we had a favourite expression that the quality of the decision was directly proportional to the quality of the debate. Stay factual and share your perspective in a respectful and trusting environment - never ever let the discussion get personal.
I’m a particular fan of Gokul Rajaram’s SPADE framework that he created many years ago while at Square. It’s simple, easy to apply, and it touches on the important aspects of leadership such as consultation and communication. Moreover, it’s structured enough that you can easily build it into your company culture. In retrospect, we had been following a very similar approach ourselves, in our companies albeit not as formalized.
Gokul has conveniently productized the SPADE framework in a handy SaaS offering, that allows distributed organizations to improve their decision-making.
SPADE is an acronym for Situation, People, Alternatives, Decision and Explanation. Let’s look at each of the five steps. (I should point out that I’ve made some minor modifications to Gokul’s framework and have simply highlighted those changes with an “*”.)
The start of every decision is a question that needs to be answered such as Which market segment should we pursue? What should we name this product?
Set a deadline so that decisions don’t drag on
Spell out your criteria to measure success (targets, metrics, objectives and constraints)*
Responsible: Who is responsible for the decision and the execution of the decision? This person typically leads the SPADE process
Approver: Who is ultimately responsible for approving the decision? According to Gokul, “Typically, the approver does not vote down the decision itself, rather they veto the quality of the decision”
Consulted: Who has a perspective and valuable input that should be included in the decision-making process?
Informed: Who should be informed of the decision-making process and outcome*
Brainstorm to generate a comprehensive set of feasible alternatives
For each alternative, list out the pros and cons. Be quantitative and draw on evidence wherever possible. Draw on relative benefits such as High/Medium/Low and consider weighting based on importance
Explore ways to mitigate the risk
Consider assigning probabilities to possible outcomes for each alternative*
Form a recommendation by presenting the alternatives to the team, asking for their feedback and taking people’s input into consideration. On contentious topics, a private vote may be effective
Run your recommendation and the process by the Approver
Hold a Commitment Meeting with key stakeholders to communicate the decision. It is paramount that once a decision is made, everybody supports the decision and the whole company pulls in the same direction
Prepare a 1-page outline that summarizes the SPADE behind the decision and communicate it to those tagged as “informed” in the People step
I believe that tools such as the SPADE framework can help you make better decisions faster with stronger buy-in from your whole team and your Board. Incorporate a decision-making framework like this into your company culture and I think you’ll find your business will be better for it. For more on our Evidence-Based methodology or for help on your Sales and Marketing strategy, please contact us directly.