Semantic Muddle in the Decision Model & Notation (DMN) Standard
Comment by DMN proponent: In common business use the term “decision” is often overloaded to mean “decision output”. So I “make a decision to do X” is the act, whereas I “use the decision as input to another decision” is referring to the decision output. I’m not sure there are any semantic issues with (i.e. possible problems caused by) this overloading?
My response: Since DMN is a standard (and in particular claims to be a business standard), then it must stick with its own definition of terms in all cases. Otherwise, in what sense is it a standard (especially a business standard)?
In defining “decision” DMN had two fundamental choices (from Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary):
1. a : the act of deciding; specifically : the act of settling or terminating (as a contest or controversy) by giving judgment
1. b : a determination arrived at after consideration : SETTLEMENT, CONCLUSION
DMN explicitly chose the first meaning. I strongly prefer the second, but then I’m a big fan of all things declarative. So in BRS TableSpeak an outcome by definition is a decision.
Since DMN explicitly chose the first meaning, however, an outcome (conclusion) is by definition *not* a decision. A decision is an act, never the result of the act.
Hey, I’m just reading what is written in the standard. If DMN somehow allows ‘overloading’ of the term “decision” — the central term in the standard — all bets are off. A term that you can use any way you want when it happens to suit you is a term that has not been standardized at all. The result is semantic muddle. Pretty big deal. Sorry!
Tags: decision management, decision models, decisions, DMN, DMN standard, modeling decisions, standards, TableSpeak
Ronald G. Ross
Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.