IAF Methods

Decision Hierarchy: Givens (OD1)

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This is part of a longer process of developing a project, called opportunity framing. This method is best used in highly complex long-term technical projects.

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To determine the boundaries, i.e. Givens, set in a project, in order to exploit the prospects.

To set foundational decisions and givens for the team.


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  • Markers
  • post its (optional - 3 colours)
  • flipchart with Decision Hierarchy Chart or sticky wall



Make sure that all stakeholders of the project are participating and all aspects of the project are covered in the presentations.

Ask the presenters to limit their presentations to 20 – 25 min. (In a typical project there may be 8 – 10 of these background presentations. They are designed to get everyone at the same level of understanding as far as the project is concerned.)

Require that only flip chart drawings are used and presenters use no overhead slides. The presenters should only use simple language that everyone in the room can understand.


1. The process is made up of two parts. The first part is a series of presentations covering all the aspects of the project: background, finance, human resources, markets, production, construction, etc. depending on the type of project. The second part is identifying the components of the Decision Hierarchy: Givens, Priority Decisions and Tactical Decisions.

2. Decision Hierarchy will enable us to set the boundary conditions, determine the key decisions and the supporting decisions in order to exploit the prospect being explored.

There are three levels of the Hierarchy: Givens, Priority Decisions and Tactical Decisions. Givens are facts, assumptions, and decisions already made. Priority Decisions are those that must be made in order for the project to move ahead. They become recommendations for milestones. Tactical Decisions are those that support the Priority Decisions but do not need to be made now.

3. This workshop identifies the three Decision Hierarchies as described above and as a first result confirms the Givens part of the Hierarchy. This workshop normally leads into another workshop to address the Priority Decisions and Tactical Decisions.


1. Introduce the process and the Decision Hierarchy as described above. Have series of 20-25 min presentations.

2. At the end of each presentation ask the group to list on post-its (one per idea, use 3 colors of post its) the Givens, Priority Decisions and Tactical Decisions that they noticed in the presentation or that came to mind during the presentation. Ask them to put them up on the Decision Hierarchy Chart (see chart).

3. Repeat this process for each presenter.

4. When the presentations are over, ask participants to list any additional items that have occurred to them.

5. Read each of the cards that are in the Givens category.

6. Check to see that it is clear (Sometimes something identified as a given is not once it has been clarified. They can be opportunities or priority decisions.) In order to clarify ask when appropriate:

  • What decisions have already been made? (The board, the owner of the project, etc.)
  • Are there facts that constrain the project?
  • What assumptions will be we make in order to set aside uncertainties?

7. Rewrite the post it if necessary.

8. Put them all on a flipchart or wall so that they are readable by the whole group.

9. Read the list out loud. Confirm that these are the givens for the project.


Source: updip ep business management consultancy

Derived from: unknown

History of Development: Framing is done as a workshop for multidisciplinary project teams in the early stages of a project or the assessment of a business opportunity. The framing methodology consists in a structured approach towards aligning objectives, value drivers and critical success factors. The main deliverable is a coherent, decision driven road map. Framing can potentially save significant costs, especially when considering that project under-performance is in many cases related to planning inefficiencies early in the project phase.

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  • Hertogh, M.J.C.M. (2014), Opportunity framing, Chapter 6 in Bakker, H.L.M and J.P. de Kleijn, 2014: Management of engineering projects - People are key. NAP, Nijkerk. ISBN: 9789081216203.

    over 3 years ago