8 strategies for how to make group decisions
There are lots of different ways to make decisions. This post outlines several.
Should we cancel the project? What should the team implement to solve absenteeism issues? Which DVD should we hire? What time should we run the meeting? How will we decide which new processes to implement? Where should we hold the team event? How will we deal with MarComms in 2012? What are the strategic priorities?
For all these questions, we need to identify solutions. With a good problem solving method, some brainstorming or spontaneous creativity we can come up with ideas. But how to decide?
Decision making is an integral part of leadership (even if the leader does not decide) and as such, how decisions will be made is something to consider in detail. When leaders set up the modus-operandi for teamwork, projects, meetings … defining how decisions will be made should be included.
Here are a few ways you might make decisions in a group
One person decides
- This is usually the leader or manager or another person with responsibility. I have discovered in my family that it can be fun to delegate decision making to different family members at different moments. You get some interesting results..
Democratic (majority) decision
- Everyone votes and the majority wins. Anything over 50% = majority. A variation on this is the advance-majority decision which states that prior to voting, the % majority required to pass the decision must be defined. What is interesting here is to think about who decides this % and how (the group or one person?).
- Everyone has to agree on a given solution/proposition. When the unanimous decision does not come quickly, groups face the dilemma of having to dedicate more time than they hoped to make the decision or to have to change the decision making process. The 2nd option can lead to conflict and dissatisfaction, especially if only a small number of people in the group were “against” the majority.
- In this option, you question the decision itself and changing it until everyone is happy with the new outcome. Imagine a choice between options A and B. In the compromise situation, we would either look for a merge of A and B or collaborate to create a new option (C). Read about the Thomas Kilman Indicator for more ideas on the difference between the will to compromise or collaborate.
- Involves accepting a decision provided no-one objects. This usually involves one person (the leader) saying: “If no-one disagrees, we will….” Best hope those who disagree dare to speak up!
- Putting off the decision until later might be the best decision right now. It could be done because you don’t have the time, people or expertise to deal with the decision at this moment. Does it have to be decided now?
- Maybe you will just ignore the decision and see what happens
The final option
- …works just fine for me when the stakes are low and the choice seems quite random: Flip a coin!
Advice for setting up decision making processes?
Avoid indecision or “plop decisions” (nothing is decided, but because we move to the next item, people think it was decided) by doing the following:
- Create clarity in the decision making process before anything is on the table to be decided
- Clarify the options well when making choices
- Let everyone speak – this can help to create motivation (even if one person only decides)
- Don’t take too long to decide – it is the author’s opinion that it is better to put the decision on-hold and come back to it (like doing crosswords!) than get caught up in decision making for too long – the latter drains energy and does not improve effectiveness
- Be creative!
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