Decision-Maker Mindset Map

Through the years, I’ve watched designers share their work with a wide variety of decision makers in a multitude of situations. In all that time, one thing has been consistent—a successful outcome is 50% good design and  50% presentation. Sadly, there are few resources to help designers learn the second half. Plenty of solid design gets mired in debate and revision churn because the designer didn’t know how to align the discussion with the audience.

I’ve begun formalizing the techniques I use to help ease the frustration of good design getting stuck. Some of these techniques, I shared at Leading Design 2016. It was a top notch event, and a great opportunity to try things out and get feedback.  This first tool, is called the Decision-Maker Mindset Map. Its purpose is to build empathy for the power holders that you need to reach effectively. Feel free to use it and share your feedback about how it works for you.

Decision-Maker Mindset Map

How to use it

This exercise is similar to Dave Gray’s Empathy Map, however it looks at information specific to the creation of a presentation strategy. You can do this exercise alone, but it’s most effective throwing at least two brains at it.

The page is divided into quadrants with the person’s name and role at the center. It’s important that this exercise makes the decision maker not just better understood, but also connects you to them on a human level. Take each quadrant separately, brainstorming and listing the details for the key decision maker who you will be presenting to.

The Quadrants

Point of View

Describe the perspective that this person brings to the job and the meeting. This could include their primary area of expertise, their work history or some other formative details that shape how they approach the work world.


What takes most of their time and attention in their role? Do they put particular aspects of the organization or work ahead of everything else?

Definition of Success

How is this person’s performance measured? Are there particular incentives that will have influence over their decisions? Are they rewarded for certain accomplishments by the organization?

External Forces

Executives often deal with events happening in the market, as well as your organization. Things such as restructuring, budget changes or strategies have a big impact on the decisions that someone makes about your work.

Where do you find out this information? Take the time to learn about them and get to know them. Casual hallway conversations, or an afternoon coffee break are opportunities to get to know someone. You can also talk to people who have worked with them before or have insight into that area of the organization. Feel it out, like you would do in a user interview. It’s not spying or politics when you are genuinely interested in an influential person’s view on the world.

Download the template