Decision cycle

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A decision cycle or decision loop[1] is a sequence of steps used by an entity on a repeated basis to reach and implement decisions and to learn from the results. The "decision cycle" phrase has a history of use to broadly categorize various methods of making decisions, going upstream to the need, downstream to the outcomes, and cycling around to connect the outcomes to the needs.


A decision cycle is said to occur when an explicitly specified decision model is used to guide a decision and then the outcomes of that decision are assessed against the need for the decision. This cycle includes specification of desired results (the decision need), tracking of outcomes, and assessment of outcomes against the desired results.

Examples of decision cycles[edit]

  • In quality control, PDCA (Plan–Do–Check–Act) is used.[2]
  • In science, the scientific method (Observation–Hypothesis–Experiment–Evaluation) can also be seen as a decision cycle.[3][4]
  • In the United States Armed Forces, a theory of an OODA loop (Observe–Orient–Decide–Act) has been advocated by Colonel John Boyd.[5]
  • In the lean startup methodology, the Build-Measure-Learn loop is used to guide product development.[6]
  • In management, Herbert A. Simon proposed a decision cycle of three steps (Intelligence–Design–Choice).[7] Much later, other scholars expanded his framework to five steps (Intelligence–Design–Choice–Implementation–Learning).[8]
  • In design thinking, the design process is often conceived as a decision cycle (or design cycle), such as Robert McKim's ETC (Express–Test–Cycle).[9][4]
  • In the Getting Things Done time management method, workflow consists of a cycle of five stages (Collect–Process–Organize–Do–Review).[10]
  • In the nursing process, the ADPIE (Assessment–Diagnosis–Planning–Implementation–Evaluation) process is used.[11] Alternatively, the ASPIRE (Assessment–Systematic Nursing Diagnosis–Planning–Implementation–Recheck–Evaluation) model includes an additional stage—Recheck—in between Implementation and Evaluation.[12]
  • In psychotherapy, the transtheoretical model posits five stages of intentional change (Precontemplation–Contemplation–Preparation–Action–Maintenance). These stages were initially conceived as linear, but John C. Norcross said that for many people the stages are more appropriately viewed as a cycle (Psych–Prep–Perspire–Persist–Relapse).[13]
  • In USAID, the use of a program cycle, "codified in the Automated Directive Systems (ADS) 201, is USAID's operational model for planning, delivering, assessing, and adapting development programming in a given region or country to achieve more effective and sustainable results in order to advance U.S. foreign policy".[14] Relatedly, within the agency there exists resources regarding adaptive management decision cycles.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Simohammed, Antar. "A decision loop for situation risk assessment under uncertainty: A case study of a gas facility". ScienceDirect. Elsevier. Archived from the original on 2023-07-12. Retrieved 2023-08-16.
  2. ^ Shores, A. Richard (1988). Survival of the fittest: total quality control and management evolution. Milwaukee, WI: ASQC Quality Press. p. 59. ISBN 087389040X. OCLC 18845934.
  3. ^ Darian, Steven G. (2003). "The language of experiments". Understanding the language of science. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 148. ISBN 0292716176. OCLC 51210597.
  4. ^ a b Dubberly, Hugh; Evenson, Shelley; Chung, Jack; Bahr, Robin; Pangaro, Paul (20 March 2009). "A model of the creative process". Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  5. ^ Osinga, Frans P. B. (2007) [2005]. "Completing the loop". Science, strategy and war: the strategic theory of John Boyd. Strategy and history. Vol. 18. London; New York: Routledge. p. 234. ISBN 978-0415371032. OCLC 67773991.
  6. ^ Ries, Eric (2011). The lean startup: how today's entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses. New York: Crown Business. p. 76. ISBN 9780307887894. OCLC 693809631.
  7. ^ Simon, Herbert A. (1977) [1960]. The new science of management decision (Revised ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0136161448. OCLC 2464596.
  8. ^ Mora, Manuel; Forgionne, Guisseppi; Cervantes, Francisco; Garrido, Leonardo; Gupta, Jatinder N. D.; Gelman, Ovsei (January 2005). "Toward a comprehensive framework for the design and evaluation of intelligent decision-making support systems (i-DMSS)". Journal of Decision Systems. 14 (3): 321–344. doi:10.3166/jds.14.321-344. S2CID 5171106.
  9. ^ McKim, Robert H. (1980) [1972]. Experiences in visual thinking (2nd ed.). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole. ISBN 0818504110. OCLC 5946609.
  10. ^ Allen, David (2001). "Getting control of your life: the five stages of mastering workflow". Getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity. New York: Viking Press. p. 24. ISBN 0670889067. OCLC 44868871.
  11. ^ Alfaro-LeFevre, Rosalinda (2014) [1986]. Applying nursing process: the foundation for clinical reasoning (8th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 9781609136970. OCLC 793572204. See also: Ackley, Betty J.; Ladwig, Gail B. (2014) [1993]. Nursing diagnosis handbook: an evidence-based guide to planning care (10th ed.). Maryland Heights, Missouri: Mosby Elsevier. p. 10. ISBN 9780323085496. OCLC 779260503.
  12. ^ Barrett, David; Wilson, Benita; Woollands, Andrea (2012) [2009]. Care planning: a guide for nurses (2nd ed.). Harlow, England: Pearson Education. p. 21. ISBN 9780273746119. OCLC 766301888.
  13. ^ Norcross, John C.; Loberg, Kristin; Norcross, Jonathon (2012). Changeology: 5 steps to realizing your goals and resolutions. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 196. ISBN 9781451657616.
  14. ^ "USAID: Program Cycle Overview". Retrieved 2022-09-28.
  15. ^ "Knowing When to Adapt – A Decision Tree". Retrieved 2022-09-28.