Improve Team Decision-Making

I’ve been working with a number of teams lately who seem to struggle with decision-making. A couple of frequent complaints include:

  • “Decision-making takes too long. We’re trying to make decisions by consensus but we just never get anywhere.”
  • “It doesn’t matter what we say, the manager/leader always makes the decision.”
  • “We make a decision but then we just revisit it at the next meeting.”

If these protests sound familiar, you are not alone. It is quite common for teams to have difficulty with decision-making.

A starting point to improve team decision-making is to determine which decisions the team will make, which ones are appropriate for the individual and which ones will be retained by the team leader/manager. Increased clarity helps alleviate the frustration and confusion resulting from unclear expectations about who makes the decision.

If the decision is to be made at the team level, the next step is to be clear about how decisions will be made (e.g., consensus, majority rule). Many teams make the mistake of trying to make all decisions by consensus. It is not only time-consuming, but inappropriate. Some decisions are best made by the individual team member or by a simple majority vote. Everyone does not have to have a say about every decision.

Some questions to consider when making team decisions include:

  • What is our objective?
  • What is driving this decision? How does that fit with our strategy, vision, values?
  • What criteria will we use to make this decision?
  • How will we make it (consensus, subgroup, recommendation to another)?
  • What decision tool(s) will we use?
  • Who are the stakeholders and how/when do we need to involve them?
  • What data do we need/have?
  • What are the perspectives of each team member? The sponsor(s)? Other stakeholders?
  • What are the alternatives, possible solutions, etc.?
  • What are the pros, cons and implications of each option? How do the options stand up against mission, values, and strategies?
  • How will we communicate the decision outside of the team?
  • Who has accountability?
  • How will success be measured?

Finally, wrap-up team meetings by clearly stating the decision (again) to ensure all team members are on the same page. Seek commitment from all. Clarify accountability for next steps, including communication of the decision to other appropriate parties.

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