Strategic Decisions Group at a Glance


  • "The culture and the company policy of retaining people for the long term."
  • "Challenging work, worthy colleagues, great culture."
  • "The problems that we solve."


  • "Hours, though entirely flexible, can be long."
  • "Tight deadlines."
  • "Overcoming 'not large or famous enough' bias on competitive bids."

The Buzz

  • "Academic."
  • "Interesting."
  • Limited brand recognition.

About Strategic Decisions Group

Headquartered just down the road from Stanford University, Strategic Decisions Group specializes in providing high-level decision making, risk management, and value-based leadership advice to its clients. Formed in 1981, the firm partners with boards of directors, heads of business units and senior managers in a variety of mostly capital-intensive industries via offices in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. SDG consultants serve many of the world's largest research and development-intensive companies, life sciences companies, energy companies, technology and communication companies, and companies in manufacturing, consumer products, transportation, infrastructure development, private equity, and commodities. 

Divide and conquer

SDG co-founder Ronald Howard first developed the concept of "decision analysis" while teaching at Stanford University in 1964. Decision analysis is a way of dissecting complex business decisions in a formal manner, often using tools such as relevance diagrams and decision trees. Uncertainties are transformed into probability distributions. Decisions are made based on trade-offs among alternatives that deliver the highest value. The methodological foundation of decision analysis can still be found in the firm's methods, but the professional field has broadened considerably over the past 30 years into decision quality, which combines the analytical power of decision analysis with techniques to address decision biases and  organizational complexity (many decision makers, often in conflict). Decision analysis certainly had its critics, though, with the foremost attack probably being that humans don't actually think this way. But proponents argue that decision quality is simply a way of seeing all alternatives on a level playing field, allowing you to more easily make trade-offs that give all stakeholders the most of what they truly want.

Industrial evolution

SDG's specialty is serving industries that are on the cusp of-or often faced with-major game-changing market shifts that require "big bets ahead of the curve." The firm's practice areas hone in on a number of these industries, including consumer businesses, energy and environment, financial services, infrastructure, life sciences, manufacturing, technology and communications, and transportation. 

The firm's largest industry practice area, however, is its energy and environment segment, which works with renewable energy companies, electric and gas utilities, oil and gas, and companies at the intersection of power and technology. The firm says it has developed strategy for dozens of companies worldwide and trained energy executives in all aspects of corporate strategy development and implementation, enterprise risk management, risk management, portfolio and asset management, and environmental strategy. 

The bookworms next door

Considering the firm's origins at Stanford University, it's not surprising that SDG emphasizes its connections to the academic world, even claiming to have more PhDs on staff than most university graduate programs. The firm has had a 10-year collaboration with the Stanford Center for Professional Development to offer a Stanford certificate program in strategic decision and risk management (SDRM). The program comprises 15 2½-day courses that help individuals and organizations learn to make better strategic decisions, manage risk, and implement effective decision support processes. 

Outside of the certificate program, the firm also offers public courses and workshops designed to build individual capabilities in decision analysis and decision quality. And if in-person courses aren't your thing, SDG also offers free MOOCs-massive open online courses-on decision quality periodically throughout the year and shorter, one-hour webinars hosted by Stanford on decision-related topics. 


August 2015

SDG Enters Global Health Consulting Market with Acquisition

SDG acquired boutique management consulting firm Applied Strategies of San Mateo, Calif., a move that expands SDG's consulting services into global health and accelerates the firm's growth in life sciences in North America. Applied Strategies helps many of the world's leading global health organizations to assess the impact of their investments and health interventions.  Applied Strategies will retain its brand in the global health sector - clients include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH, and the GHIT Fund - as a wholly owned subsidiary of SDG.

March 2015

Supporting an Aerospace Company's Bidding Process

Competitive-bidding situations, such as those for government contracts, entail tremendous stakes, are highly complex, and are fraught with uncertainty: Who will bid? How aggressively? How many units will the customer ultimately take? What will development and production costs be for as-yet-nonexistent technologies? SDG helped a world-leading aerospace company to incorporate risk and opportunity considerations credibly and consistently into its analyses of competitors, the customer, and technology-development - thereby helping it to more regularly generate better bids. 

February 2015

Finding the Needle in the Haystack

Many high-volume retail enterprises leave substantial value on the table in their struggle to balance the need to move quickly with their supplier base against the cost-savings opportunities they might find by taking the time to mine their massive data stores for insight. SDG helped a major European retailer access the information it needed at the right time to make better sourcing decisions. SDG's analytical tools cut through a sea of detail to highlight the negotiation levers that would contribute the most value. With this clear line of sight to ultimate value, the management team could focus its attention to a small set of relevant negotiations rather than sift through a long, bottom-up analysis on the mere hope of finding insight. 

January 2015

A Sports Brand Reconsiders its Manufacturing Risk

A leading sports brand approached SDG to help it think through the implications of where it should focus its outsourced manufacturing for the next decade. Facing considerable uncertainty and numerous forms of risk, the client turned to SDG to put all of the possible alternatives into perspective and identify a strategy that would allow them to capture value without increasing risk exposure. By modeling decision sequencing and helping the client to understand its real options value, SDG was able to advise the client on which commitments could be made now without jeopardizing the long-term plan, while minimizing the associated risks. 

November 2014

The Raiffa-Howard Award for Organizational Decision Quality goes to Chevron 

As a founding sponsor of the Society of Decision Professionals, SDG was pleased to support the establishment of the Raiffa-Howard Award for Organizational Decision Quality. This award, named for Professors Howard Raiffa of Harvard and Ronald Howard of Stanford, recognizes organizations that have made Decision Quality a core competency. The first recipient of the award was Chevron. "Chevron's adoption of Decision Quality is a major advance for our field," said SDG CEO Carl Spetzler, who played a role supporting Chevron in its adoption of Decision Quality over many years. "It's like the first runner who broke the four-minute mile. Now that it has been achieved, we can expect to see many others follow." Chevron's approach was described in Harvard Business Review's online edition in the May 2015 article, "An Organization-Wide Approach to Good Decision Making." 

August 2014

Moving North

SDG opened its first office in Canada in 2014. The firm said its presence in Calgary, Alberta, was the natural outcome of growing demand among clients in oil & gas and adjacent sectors, such as power. "We have a long history of serving this market," said Naoki Shimoda, managing director of the firm's global Energy & Environment Practice, "and we see tremendous potential for additional growth."

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Strategic Decisions Group

745 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: (650) 475-4400
Fax: (650) 475-4401


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Chairman & CEO: Carl Spetzler
  • 2015 Employees: 122

  • Employment Contact

  • Major Departments & Practices
    Business Strategy
    Decision and Risk Analytics
    Education & Training
    Organization and Decision Process Design
    Portfolio Management and Resource Allocation

Major Office Locations

  • Palo Alto, CA (HQ)
    San Mateo, CA

    Hong Kong