Product Management

Strategic Choices: Making Right Decisions as a Product Manager

Content Writer

Athira V S

Created on:

January 11, 2024

Updated on:

January 4, 2024

17 mins read

Strategic Choices: Making Right Decisions as a Product Manager


Let’s face it, making decisions, whether minor or major, is an everyday dilemma for product managers. Undoubtedly, this vests a lot of responsibility on PMs’ shoulders as these decisions could dictate the success of a feature or the product as a whole. 

This puts product managers in a tough spot, that is, to master the art of decision-making. In a survey by McKinsey, only 20 percent of respondents say their organizations excel at decision-making. Also, a majority of them revealed that most of the time they used for decision-making is inefficient. The survey also shows that managers either make good decisions or fast ones, but not both. 

We can all agree that not every business has the luxury to make wrong decisions. A single major misstep can totally make your product’s future topsy-turvy! Nobody wants that, right? 

We understand that decision-making can be a daunting task, which is why we've created this guide to assist you. Our goal is to help you make informed decisions quickly and efficiently. By the end of this guide, we hope you will better understand how to make the right choices at the right time.

The Art of Decision Making

Decision-making is an art, and you, the artist. Whether it's understanding the impact of your decisions or combating biases, it's all about balancing various factors. We'll dive into the nitty-gritty of identifying the importance of each decision, understanding its impact, and making sure our own biases do not blind us. 

Identifying the Importance

In order to make an informed decision, it is vital to realize the significance of the decision you are about to make. Before investing your precious time and energy into it, it is crucial to determine whether it is a task that can be assigned to your team members, if it demands the involvement of everyone, or if it should be handled on your own.

Understanding the Impact of Decisions

Product managers' decisions significantly impact the product's trajectory. Understanding their weight and consequences is crucial, analyzing not just the immediate effects but also the long-term implications.

Combating Any Biases

Cognitive biases often influence decision-making, whether confirmation bias, anchoring, or others. Recognizing these biases is the first step towards mitigating their impact on your decisions.

To counteract biases, it's essential to seek diverse perspectives. This involves consulting with different stakeholders, considering alternative viewpoints, and actively seeking out information that challenges your assumptions.

Analyzing the Resources in Hand

Product managers frequently operate under time, budget, and staffing constraints. Knowing how to navigate these limitations is crucial.

This chapter sets the stage for a deeper exploration into the realms of decision-making. As we move forward, we will delve into specific frameworks and strategies that can aid product managers in making informed, effective decisions. The goal is not just to make decisions but to master the art of decision-making, transforming it into a strategic asset for both the product manager and the product.

Frameworks for Decision-Making

Frameworks can be of great help for you to speed up your decision-making process. However, the catch here is that every framework is not suitable for every situation and every team. So, be mindful when you are choosing the framework for yourself. 

Understanding Types of Decisions

Just like how it's essential to identify the various aspects that contribute to your decision-making, it's equally important to understand the types of decisions you have to make. Choosing the wrong type of process could have long-term consequences for your company. To help you out, we'd like to introduce you to the two fundamental types of decision-making processes.

Jeff Bezos introduced two types of decision-making processes called Type I and Type II. Let us look at each type in detail:

Type I (One-Way Door)

The one-way door in the title itself would have explained what this type is all about. Type I decisions are irreversible decisions. Once made, there is no going back. These decisions are high-impact decisions that could determine the course of your product.

For example, you are doing a major rebranding of your company or altering your business model. This is a transformative decision that leaves little room for revision.

Since these decisions are crucial, it is imperative that you spend ample time, extensive research, and resources to make the right call. Of course, you will also have to rely on your intuition while making such decisions.

Type II (Two-Way Door)

On the other hand, this kind of decision is like a two-way road, meaning it can be reversed if things don't work out as expected. This provides the flexibility to change direction and try something different. 

When it comes to product management, these decisions involve tweaking a product feature or experimenting with a new customer onboarding process. Being able to reverse these decisions encourages experimentation and agility, allowing product managers to respond to feedback and changing market conditions quickly.

Here’s a funny analogy we came across to help you better understand Type I and Type II decisions. 

Type I decision is like tattooing; it is not easily reversible, and if it goes wrong, you will have to bear the repercussions for the rest of your life. At the same time, Type II is like getting a haircut; it is not permanent. If you don't like your new hairstyle, you can always change it again or just wait for it to grow back.

Balancing and understanding two types of decisions is crucial. According to Bezos, many organizations often make the mistake of applying the Type I decision-making process to situations that require Type II decisions. This can lead to unnecessary delays, risk aversion, and stifling of innovation. Here are some key factors you should keep in mind while making decision using this framework.

  1. Overuse of Heavy-Weight Processes for Simple Decisions: In big companies, it's common to see every decision, no matter how small, getting the red-carpet treatment. This is like using a steamroller to crack a nut. It's especially cumbersome for reversible, everyday choices (Type 2) that don't need such an elaborate process.
  2. Fear of Taking Risks Stifles Innovation: As companies get bigger, they often start to play it too safe. It’s like they’re tiptoeing, scared of making a wrong move. This cautious approach might keep them from making mistakes, but it also keeps them from making groundbreaking innovations.
  3. Decision-Making Slows Down with Bureaucracy: Ever seen how adding more cooks in the kitchen can slow down cooking? That's what happens in large firms. With more layers of approval needed, even simple decisions can take ages to get finalized.
  4. One Approach Doesn't Fit All: Big organizations sometimes forget that not all decisions are created equal. They tend to use the same method for different types of decisions. It’s like using the same tool for all functions, which doesn’t always work.
  5. Valuable Insights at Lower Levels Get Ignored: Often, the real nuggets of wisdom come from those working closest to the action – the frontline employees. But in many large companies, these voices get drowned out in the higher echelons of decision-making.
  6. Reluctance to Abandon Past Success Strategies: There’s a tendency to stick to what’s worked in the past- making them hesitant to try new strategies.
  7. Adapting to Changes Becomes a Herculean Task: In a rapidly changing market, agility is key. However, for some organizations burdened with complex decision-making processes, adapting quickly is often a challenge.

The SPADE Framework

Note: This framework is only meant for difficult decisions!

SPADE is a framework developed by Gokul Rajaram to make efficient and effective decisions at Square. This framework is only meant for hard decisions that need to be made quickly.

SPADE stands for Setting, People, Alternatives, Decide, and Explain. Let us look at each of them individually in more detail. 

Components of Spade


It is about the context of your decision. You will analyze different dimensions of your decision, like what, when, and why.

Imagine you are changing your business model, then it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of what the business model is going to be. This includes analyzing the business model in detail. After this, you need to establish when the business model will be implemented as it is essential to have a clear rationale for the timing of the implementation. 

This will help to understand why it needs to take place at a particular point in time. Finally, it is important to have a clear understanding of why the business model is being altered. This will help you to question the overall objective, which will provide context for your decision-making process.


This is one core aspect of the decision-making process that is often overlooked. Rajaram points out that most companies rely on consensus to make difficult decisions and this is not an effective way to make a call. This component is about the roles of people involved in the decision-making process. This is important to promote accountability, efficiency, and transparency in decision-making. 

There are 3 roles for people involved. 

Responsible- This person is responsible for making the decisions and also is accountable for its execution. Rajaram believes that accountability and responsibility are synonymous.

Approver: The approver should veto the quality of the decision rather than the decision itself. 

Consultant- This is the person you need to listen to and receive feedback from. This person plays a key role in helping the responsible person make the right decisions. 

SPADE Framework


The decision maker and the responsible person must come up with a set of alternatives that are feasible, diverse, and comprehensive. You can engage in an open brainstorming session to come up with the alternatives and analyze their pros and cons.


Once you are ready with your alternatives, it is time to decide. Make all your consultants vote, and ensure that you make them do the votes privately so that there is no scope for group thinking or any kind of biases. 


Communicating the decision is as important as making the decision. This will avoid any kind of frustration and foster transparency across the relevant parties. 

RAPID Framework

RAPID decision-making framework was developed by the consulting firm Bain & Company. According to them, “It is part of a disciplined approach that defines the “what, who, how, and when” of decision making and can lead to improved decision effectiveness.”

This decision-making process can be very helpful for product managers as it helps you identify clear roles and responsibilities for each stage in a decision-making process. The ‘R’ in Rapid stands for Recommend, A- Agree, P- Perform, I- Input, and D- Decide. 

RAPID Framework


This role is crucial in the whole process as this person collates information, analyzes data, and gathers inputs to facilitate decision-making. This role should be assigned to someone whom you can trust as their input ensures the accuracy of the decisions. 


As its name implies, this role confirms whether the recommended decision is feasible and should be forwarded to the decision-maker. This role is assigned only when necessary and ensures that the recommendation meets mandatory requirements, such as legal and regulatory requirements.


A performer is definitely necessary to execute the decision once it is made. Thus, assigning this role in a timely manner is crucial to ensuring quick and timely execution of decisions.


The input role is crucial in providing expertise, experience, or information that shapes the recommendation. It should also include those who will be affected by the decision or involved in execution so they can bring visibility to risks and downstream implications. 

Those in the input role must feel included, respected, and empowered in the decision-making process, even if their input is not ultimately reflected in the outcome. 

For example, inputs can come from customer success managers for feature development decisions. Their inputs could be primarily based on customer sentiments and could essentially impact the product’s fate. So, the vitality of an input role is evident here. 


Having only one final decision-maker is always better. This framework also supports the statement. However, if it is a decision that needs to be decided by a group of people, there should be a proper strategy upfront to make the call. 

Decide role of plays a vital part in providing clarity and accountability. The person in charge of making the final decision aligns with the recommender at the start of the process to ensure that the right steps are taken. They communicate the decision and its reasoning to all stakeholders involved and ensure that the decision has sufficient resources for effective execution.

Making the Right Decision

Having robust frameworks in hand could broadly positively impact your decision-making. However, that alone cannot improve your decisions and drive you in the right direction. Moreover, it is important that you choose the proper framework that suits you and tweak it to make it perfect.

This chapter will help you ace the decision-making process with or without the framework we discussed in the guide. 

Gather and Use Relevant Data

Data analysis can help product managers gain insights into customer behavior and preferences, aiding in better decision-making. Product managers can understand what customers genuinely need and want by analyzing patterns and trends. This leads to faster iterations, improved product-market fit, and better resource allocation. 

To make the most of data analysis, it is vital to have a clear data strategy in place. This includes identifying relevant data sources, defining key metrics, and implementing robust data collection and analysis processes. With this approach, decisions are grounded in factual evidence, leading to the creation of products that truly resonate with the target audience. can be a helpful tool for gathering and analyzing relevant customer data, which can help you build revenue-generating products. 

Establish a Healthy Culture

In some cases, making sound decisions isn't just up to one person; rather it's a team effort. As a Product Manager, it's important to act as a curator and bring together customer emotions, common goals, and relevant information to make informed decisions together. 

Creating a friendly and inclusive culture where your team members feel comfortable sharing their views is also essential. This way, everyone can work together to drive positive changes and achieve success.

Promoting Individual Brainstorming

In addition to the established practices, promoting individual brainstorming is beneficial. This approach allows team members to develop ideas independently, free from group influences or biases. 

Individual brainstorming ensures a diversity of opinions and perspectives, which is crucial for comprehensive decision-making.

Avoiding Groupthink: Individual brainstorming helps prevent groupthink, where the desire for harmony or conformity results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

Encouraging Creativity: By brainstorming individually, team members can freely explore creative solutions without the pressure of immediate judgment or critique from others.

Brainwriting as an Alternative to Brainstorming: Brainwriting is another effective technique that can complement or replace traditional brainstorming sessions. This method involves independently gathering written ideas from team members before sharing them with the group.

Brainwriting involves team members writing down their ideas on paper or digitally. After a set time, ideas are reviewed and discussed as a group. Benefits include hearing from everyone and minimizing the impact of dominant personalities.

Rapid Learning and Course Correction

One key aspect of building a thriving decision-making culture is learning fast and making course corrections as needed. In order to make quick, agile decisions, it's important to review assumptions and identify any blind spots constantly. 

To make the best decisions in the shortest amount of time, we should consider the decision maker's intuition, experience, motivations, evidence, facts, and data. It's also crucial to implement a feedback loop, where we reflect on the decision-making process and ask ourselves whether we made the best decision at the time, regardless of the outcome. Ultimately, by prioritizing continuous learning and improvement, we can make even better decisions in the future.

Communicate Decision-Making Process

Effective communication of the decision-making process is critical, especially in a team setting. It’s important to invest in planning and communicating the decision and its rollout. Creating a stakeholder communications plan helps keep various people informed about the progress. Defining the goals, signals, and measures of the decision aligns the team with the next steps and aids in determining the success of the decision. Avoiding self-doubt and trusting the process is important after making a decision​​​​​​.

Avoid Procrastination

In decision-making, avoiding procrastination is key. Procrastination can hinder the progress and effectiveness of decisions. By focusing on the data, establishing a healthy culture, learning rapidly, communicating effectively, and trusting the decision-making process, product managers can mitigate the risk of procrastination and ensure timely and effective decisions.

Moving Forward

As a product manager, your decisions shape the future of your products and, ultimately, your organization. By applying the principles outlined in this article, you can make more informed, effective, and strategic decisions. Remember, the journey of mastering decision-making is ongoing. Stay curious, stay informed, and be ready to adapt as the market and your customers evolve.

Now, equipped with knowledge, strategies, and a clear action plan, you are ready to lead your product team toward greater innovation, customer satisfaction, and business success. Let’s turn these insights into impactful actions and create exceptional products that resonate with your audience and stand out in the marketplace.

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