The 5 Chairs Model: Guide to Effective Decision-Making

5 chairs model

In the realm of decision-making and problem-solving, having a structured approach can significantly enhance the quality of outcomes. One such effective model is the “5 Chairs Model,” a framework designed to guide individuals and teams through the decision-making process. This model provides a structured way to consider various perspectives and stakeholders, ultimately leading to more informed and balanced decisions. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key principles of the 5 Chairs Model and how it can be applied in various contexts.

Understanding the 5 Chairs Model

Chair 1: The Decision-Maker’s Chair

The first chair represents the decision-maker. This is the individual or group responsible for making the final call. In this chair, the decision-maker considers their own thoughts, feelings, and biases about the decision at hand. It encourages self-awareness and introspection, prompting the decision-maker to recognize and manage their own preferences and prejudices. By starting with an understanding of one’s own perspective, the decision-maker lays the foundation for a more thoughtful and balanced decision.

Chair 2: The Customer’s Chair

In Chair 2, the focus shifts to the customer or end-user. This could be an external client, an internal team, or any party directly affected by the decision. It’s crucial to empathize with the customer’s needs, preferences, and concerns. By stepping into the customer’s shoes, the decision-maker gains valuable insights into how the decision will impact those on the receiving end. This customer-centric approach ensures that the decision aligns with the broader goals and expectations of the stakeholders involved.

Chair 3: The Adviser’s Chair

No decision is made in isolation. Chair 3 acknowledges the importance of seeking advice and expertise from relevant stakeholders or subject matter experts. This could involve consulting with team members, experts in the field, or other decision-makers within the organization. The adviser’s role is to provide valuable insights, data, and perspectives that may not be immediately apparent to the decision-maker. Embracing diverse viewpoints in this chair enriches the decision-making process and reduces the risk of oversight.

Chair 4: The Devil’s Advocate’s Chair

Chair 4 introduces a critical perspective into the decision-making process. Here, the decision-maker or team takes on the role of the devil’s advocate, actively seeking out potential flaws, risks, and unintended consequences of the decision. This chair encourages a thorough examination of the decision from all angles, helping to identify and mitigate potential pitfalls. Embracing constructive skepticism in Chair 4 ensures that decisions are resilient and can withstand scrutiny.

Chair 5: The Quality Control Chair

The final chair serves as a quality control checkpoint. In Chair 5, the decision-maker evaluates the decision against a set of predefined criteria. This could include ethical considerations, alignment with organizational values, or adherence to relevant policies and regulations. The Quality Control Chair ensures that the decision is not only well-informed and balanced but also meets the necessary standards for integrity and compliance.

5 chairs model | image source: pexels

Applying the 5 Chairs Model in Practice

Step 1: Identify the Decision

The first step in applying the 5 Chairs Model is to clearly define the decision that needs to be made. Whether it’s a strategic business move, a project-related choice, or a personal decision, articulating the decision sets the stage for a structured approach.

Step 2: Take a Seat in Each Chair

Once the decision is identified, the decision-maker and relevant stakeholders metaphorically take a seat in each of the five chairs. This involves systematically considering the decision from different perspectives:

  • Chair 1: Reflect on personal thoughts, feelings, and biases.
  • Chair 2: Empathize with the customer or end-user.
  • Chair 3: Seek advice and expertise from relevant advisers.
  • Chair 4: Play the devil’s advocate and identify potential challenges.
  • Chair 5: Evaluate the decision against predefined criteria and quality standards.

Step 3: Document Insights and Considerations

As individuals or teams move through each chair, it’s essential to document key insights, considerations, and potential risks. This documentation serves as a valuable reference point and ensures that all perspectives are thoroughly examined.

Step 4: Synthesize and Decide

After exploring each chair, the decision-maker synthesizes the gathered information and perspectives. This synthesis involves weighing the pros and cons, considering trade-offs, and aligning the decision with overarching goals and values. The ultimate goal is to make an informed and balanced decision that takes into account various viewpoints and potential implications.

Step 5: Communicate and Implement

Once the decision is made, effective communication is key. Clearly conveying the rationale behind the decision, especially in relation to the perspectives considered in each chair, helps foster understanding and buy-in from stakeholders. Implementation follows, guided by the well-thought-out decision and supported by the insights gained through the 5 Chairs Model.

Benefits of the 5 Chairs Model

1. Holistic Decision-Making

The 5 Chairs Model promotes a holistic approach to decision-making by considering a diverse set of perspectives. This comprehensive view helps identify blind spots and ensures that decisions are well-rounded and informed.

2. Risk Mitigation

By actively engaging in devil’s advocacy in Chair 4, the model facilitates the identification and mitigation of potential risks and challenges. This proactive approach reduces the likelihood of unforeseen complications.

3. Stakeholder Inclusivity

In Chairs 2 and 3, the model emphasizes the importance of including the customer’s perspective and seeking advice from relevant stakeholders. This inclusivity fosters a sense of collaboration and ensures that decisions resonate with those directly affected.

4. Ethical Decision-Making

Chair 5, the Quality Control Chair, specifically addresses ethical considerations and adherence to standards. This ensures that decisions align with organizational values and comply with ethical guidelines and regulations.

5. Improved Communication

The structured nature of the 5 Chairs Model enhances communication throughout the decision-making process. Clear documentation and communication of insights help build transparency and understanding among team members and stakeholders.

Real-World Examples of the 5 Chairs Model in Action

Example 1: Business Strategy

Imagine a leadership team tasked with making a critical strategic decision for their company. Applying the 5 Chairs Model, they would consider the decision from the perspective of each chair:

  • Chair 1: The CEO reflects on personal biases and preferences.
  • Chair 2: The team empathizes with the needs and expectations of their customer base.
  • Chair 3: External consultants provide industry insights and expertise.
  • Chair 4: The team plays devil’s advocate, identifying potential risks and challenges.
  • Chair 5: The decision is evaluated against ethical standards and regulatory requirements.

By systematically moving through each chair, the leadership team ensures a thorough examination of the decision, leading to a well-informed and balanced strategic choice.

Example 2: Project Management

In a project management scenario, the project manager faces a key decision regarding the project timeline. Applying the 5 Chairs Model, they would:

  • Chair 1: Reflect on personal inclinations and biases related to the timeline.
  • Chair 2: Consider how the timeline may impact project stakeholders, including team members and clients.
  • Chair 3: Seek input from project team members and relevant experts.
  • Chair 4: Actively identify and address potential risks and challenges associated with the proposed timeline.
  • Chair 5: Evaluate the decision against project quality standards and deadlines.

This process ensures that the project manager considers a range of perspectives, leading to a well-balanced decision that aligns with both individual and collective needs.

Potential Challenges and Considerations

While the 5 Chairs Model offers a robust framework for decision-making, it’s important to acknowledge potential challenges and considerations:

1. Time Intensiveness

Thoroughly exploring each chair requires time and effort. In fast-paced environments, there may be pressure to expedite the decision-making process. It’s essential to strike a balance between comprehensiveness and timeliness.

2. Implementation Flexibility

Not all decisions may warrant an exhaustive exploration of each chair. The model’s application should be tailored to the specific nature and impact of the decision at hand, allowing for flexibility in implementation.

3. Skill and Experience

Effectively navigating through the chairs requires a certain level of skill and experience in decision-making. Organizations may need to invest in training and development to ensure individuals and teams can leverage the model effectively.

4. Resistance to Devil’s Advocacy

Some individuals or teams may resist playing the role of the devil’s advocate, especially if it challenges their initial perspectives. Creating a culture that values constructive skepticism is crucial for the success of Chair 4.


The 5 Chairs Model stands as a powerful tool for enhancing decision-making processes across various domains. By systematically considering the decision from different perspectives, decision-makers can uncover valuable insights, mitigate risks, and arrive at more informed and balanced choices. While the model requires an investment of time and effort, its potential to improve the quality of decisions makes it a valuable asset for individuals and organizations committed to excellence in decision-making. Whether applied in business, project management, or personal decision contexts, the 5 Chairs Model provides a structured pathway to better, more thoughtful choices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Main Menu