The Ultimate Coda Handbook for Product Teams
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2. Decision Docs

Transform your product team’s decision-making.
One thing I talk about a lot with other leaders is how decisions get done. I wrote a post called about how our tools influence decision-making and it’s the most popular post I’ve ever written. I regularly get feedback on how teams deployed the methods in two-way writeups to supercharge decision-making at their companies, and I’ve been collecting the stories and the templates that come back. The inspiration is almost always the same. As one founder told me:
“It felt like the most important decisions in our company were jammed into the 100-pixel panel hanging off the side of our Google Docs. Is that really the best we can do?”
But they followed up with:
“Google Docs taught us all how to sit on the same typewriter. Coda moved our team from co-editing to co-decisioning.”
I’ve come to label this set of patterns as “Decision Docs,” and I’ve now seen hundreds of teams develop Decision Doc templates in Coda. Each template describes not only how decision memos should be framed, but are constructed to carefully drive a decision-making process that matches the team’s culture, and this results in real conclusions. They often have iconic names and cultural indicators. Zoom chose
(Root Cause Reasoning), Square chose ., Amazon’s is , Nextdoor chose S.P.I.C.E., etc. Here’s an example of a typical “two-way writeup” from our team at Coda:
Decision doc.gif
A Decision Doc including structured feedback (without groupthink) and topic voting.

Want to jump ahead?

or type /decision doc in your doc for a structured, interactive brief.

Why the best product teams choose Coda for Decision Docs.

Our data team at Coda did some research and found that over a million Decision Docs have been created in Coda. That statistic really jumped out at me and so I set out to learn more by interviewing teams that have deployed these techniques. Through these discussions, I learned a number of insights and tricks on why they chose Coda for this ritual, and how they got it to stick. Here are the top reasons:

1. Writeups for actual decisions. Don’t make big decisions in the comments.

Here’s a comic we created for my post on to explain the evolution of decision-making:
image.png
We’ve come a long way from the days of mind-numbing presentations with no opportunity for feedback. In the early 2000s, Google Docs brought us collaborative co-editing (an amazing step forward), and many teams quickly switched to a “write a memo and ask for comments” model for decision-making. It’s definitely better, but now it feels like passing around a printed memo and asking everyone to add sticky notes. Coda adopters have generally found a better way, which leverages the fact that Coda is not just a collaborative surface, it’s an interactive one as well. These teams typically highlight three problems with the Google Docs approach that they’ve fixed with Coda:
Who actually read the writeup? → “Done Reading” reactions. The approver didn’t leave a comment. Did they not read it, or not care, or disagree with the plan? I’m sure you’ve all done some “avatar-watching” in a Google Doc to try to see who actually read it. Yuck. Coda adopters add a Done Reading reaction with instructions to click when you’re through reading. Much simpler.
Try it!
Done reading? →

Thousands of comments, but which ones are important? → Dory topic voting. In the sea of comments in the right-hand pane of your Google Doc, you work your way through them one by one. The first one is a grammatical comment, next is a clarification question, then more grammar, and then, bam, a super-important comment, and so on. For many teams, this process feels impossible. Which of these comments actually matter? Teams that run on Coda add a discussion topic-voting table to the bottom of the doc (we affectionately call these “Dory,” named after the fish from Finding Nemo who asks all the questions). Reviewers are free to add comments throughout the doc, but those are used for clarifications and suggestions. If you want a topic to be actually discussed and addressed, you have to add it to the Dory topic-voting table.
Try it!
Dory topic voting
0
Upvote
Topic
Author
1
3
What’s the deadline?
Emmeline Kim
2
1
Can we cut feature X and launch today?
Emmeline Kim
3
Can we add feature Y and launch next week?
Lane Shackleton
There are no rows in this table
Where do the decision-makers actually stand? → Pulse sentiment feedback. Comments can be quite passive-aggressive. A comment such as “Are we sure customers will like this approach?” can be interpreted as a genuine ask for clarification or a sign that the approver is not aligned. If you’re trying to drive a decision, how do you know the difference? Maybe you interpret other signals: the comment was made on the title of the doc, perhaps that means it’s more important? All of this slows down your team and prevents good decisions. Most Coda adopters skip the ambiguity and just ask the reviewers to write where they stand. We generally call this “Pulse,” a table where each reviewer has a row where they score where they stand (often on a 1 to 5 scale) and write down their reasoning. As a bonus, to reduce groupthink, you can hide everyone’s Pulse until everyone else is done adding their own.
Try it!
Show all sentiments
Sentiment
Reflection
Author
Search
Author
Sentiment
Reflection
1
Polly Rose
I feel great about the proposal!
2
James Booth
I worry about how this will affect the mobile experience.
3
Joel Davis
Cautiously optimistic!
There are no rows in this table
While there are many reasons why teams keep selecting Coda for Decision Docs, I think this is the most significant one. They see that they are making decisions in a river of thousands of Google Doc comments and realize it isn’t working. Coda gives them an interactive surface that gives teams a way to construct a deliberate decision-making process.

2. A living writeup with the latest data—no need to copy/paste over and over.

We’ve all been there—you’re ready to send an important writeup for a critical product review but the meeting gets moved and now everything is out of date. So you have to stop whatever you’re doing to copy-paste new results, the updated designs, additional screenshots, etc. Oh, and customer feedback just came in, so you have to chase that down again to make sure that’s included. It’s after midnight and you finally send out the updated pre-read.
You login the next day to see that the meeting has been pushed out another day.
And the cycle continues.
One product leader at a well-known fintech company told me that the typical PM spends 50% of their time doing the “tedious work about work.” Chase down updates, copy/paste between dozens of apps and hundreds of docs. But when they shifted to Coda, all that disappeared.
Because all of Coda’s building blocks—including tables and pages—are connected, writeups built on Coda are infused with information that updates in real time. It’s easy to embed anything, so we see product teams embed live versions of designs and metrics dashboards all the time. Coda also has Packs that integrate with over 600 different applications, so the team can sync in the latest from Jira, latest customer feedback, and any other must-have tools.
Here’s an example of what a data-infused writeup looks like (from one of our all-star user researchers at Coda):
Product Market Fit.png
Coda’s UX Research team creates writeups that are always interactive, actionable, and synced to live data.

3. Kill the meeting! Async decision-making!

Does every decision require a meeting? I’ve found that the teams that have the fastest decision-making figure out how to do it without having the meeting at all.
The CPO of Luxury Presence, Zac Hays,
:
“So we created a , along with a centralized repository for decisions made at the company. The results speak for themselves: 90% of decisions now get made asynchronously, and we easily gain clear commitment from stakeholders.”
It turns out that many of our advanced Coda adopters take Decision Docs to another level and actually kill the decision-making meeting altogether. Here’s the typical pattern:
This pattern generally spreads like wildfire through a company. The ability to cancel meetings and shift to async decision-making is very compelling.

4. A powerful AI assistant to not just help write, but to drive the decision.

Like most of the world, Coda customers love exploring the possibilities AI brings to improving how teams operate. As background, Coda AI now supports a number of different modalities. You can check it out at .
For Decision Docs, the obvious way to use Coda AI is in the writing phase, where it acts as a writing assistant that forms a list of ideas, adds and augments writing, and refines writeups to ensure clarity. One of my favorite ways to use Coda AI as a writing assistant is to ask it to proofread my work like this:
AI Proofread.gif
But the most magical thing I’ve seen Coda advocates do is use Coda AI in the actual decision-making process. One fun example I saw was one of our customers that loves the Dory/Pulse model of structured feedback collection, but found that consuming, and interpreting all the feedback submitted was time consuming.
So they added an AI block that simply summarizes the Pulse table and gives a quick version of where everyone stands. Here’s an example:
AI Summary of Pulse.gif

5. It’s an easy transition from Google Docs, with new bells and whistles.

Shifting to Coda can improve your team’s decision-making ritual—structuring your decision process, removing copy/paste, perhaps even shifting to async.
But there’s an elephant in the room: everyone already knows how to use Google Docs—is it worth the change?
Often, when teams roll out Coda, the sponsor of the deployment will write a note to the team describing Coda. I caught this line in one such note in a Fortune 1000 company deploying Coda:
“We’re shifting to Coda for our decision memos! You can see a template at [link]. It’s a bit of a change from our current Google Docs model. But don’t worry, Coda is everything you love about Google Docs, but with a few new (important) bells and whistles.
The fact that they included this last line was very interesting to me, so I reached out to learn more about what they meant. What I learned was that they had tried to shift to Coda a while back, but had stalled when the team asked about some of their favorite Google Doc features. It seems that they did an evaluation and Coda was missing one critical feature—a “suggest changes” mode. When we , they decided to take another look. As a part of that, they shared their evaluation with us. Here it is:
image.png
There’s clearly still a difference. Google Docs continues to be a type-setter’s dream—Coda lacks the formatting and layout flexibility that you would need, for example, if you were writing a printable book. But for modern teams making collaborative decisions, teams tell us that Coda has covered the primary set of features well—especially reviewing and commenting. And generally they call out that features like interactive buttons and reactions, collapsible regions, left-hand page navigation, and embeds/integrations are very important additions.
As this team summarized:
“I’m done with infinite scroll Google Docs that are 60 pages long. Drop it into Coda and structure the left nav into sensible pages, use collapsible headers to hide away detail, and use callouts to drive attention to key points. Finally, a writeup that your readers will actually read.”
Simple rule: if you’re writing a novel, use Google Docs. But if you need to make a decision, use Coda.
(BTW, if you’re trying to run this process in Google Docs, I added a few tips .)


How to get started with Coda Decision Docs.

As I’ve watched teams adopt Decision Docs, I’ve noticed that it typically happens from the bottom-up. First an individual PM discovers the magic of Coda in accelerating one important decision. Then the organization decides to templatize this experience into a set of Decision Doc templates for the team. And finally, many of the teams create a standing Decision Forum.
I’ll walk through some examples of this below, but the end result turns out to be very important—how you make decisions is one of the key hallmarks of your culture. It’s no surprise that many companies give their decision rituals a catchy name (, ,
, etc.), after all great decision-making isn’t just a key element of your execution velocity, it’s a cultural investment as well.

1. Try: make a single decision with a decision doc.

Let’s start super-simple and just make one good decision.
Pick an upcoming decision. Write it or copy/paste your writeup into a Coda doc. Add an interactive decision template by typing /dory and pulse.
A quick visual of those steps:
Decision Doc from Google doc.gif
Here’s a blank example you can start with: . Once you start using Coda Decision Docs, you’ll never want to go back to a static, non-interactive writeup again!

2. Customize: build your own decision templates for PRDs, briefs, retros, etc.

Hopefully at this point, you’ve run one (or more) decisions through Coda and seen the impact of an interactive, living, structured writeup. But to make the ritual stick, it’s very important to templatize it in a way that matches your unique culture.
Here are the steps to start with a base Coda Decision Doc template, make your modifications, and publish it as a in your workspace. You could also borrow ideas from the dozens of great Decision Doc templates that have already been published in the Coda Gallery—and I’ve outlined a few of my favorites with a bit of what I like on each one:

2a. Start with a base template and customize it.

The easiest process is to start with the .
You should adjust it to your process and, when it’s ready, you can publish it as a to your workspace.

2b. Form your “proposal” structure like Figma, Zoom, Amazon, Product School.

Before we get to the decision-making phase of a proposal, we need to capture the proposal itself. Many companies have unique approaches to how to structure the central “body” of their writeup. You can look through some of my favorite examples and borrow the patterns that work for you:

2c. Choose the best feedback model with ideas from Dory/Pulse, YouTube, Luxury Presence, and Gamestorming.

The heart of your Decision Doc template is the feedback process: how can you make sure to hear the right input from key stakeholders in a way that is understandable, actionable, and not biased. A few of my favorite patterns:
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