Facilitating team decision-making: How can we decide effectively as a team?

- Leadership

By Guillermo Lechuga, seasoned Management 3.0 Facilitator from Mexico who has trained more than 1,000 people worldwide in leadership, agility, and change management, supporting organizations in their agile transformation and way to self-organization.

Have you ever wondered how many decisions we make in a day? Various sources indicate that we make around 35,000 decisions per day! With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that our days are based on decision-making. But, how can we ensure that these decisions are effective?

In this article we will look into how we can decide effectively as a team and how you as a leader can facilitate team decision making.

Quick links:

Who we are today is the result of choices we made yesterday. Tomorrow, we will become what we choose today.

John C. Maxwell

Why is team decision-making important?

Decision-making is crucial in the coordination of actions, most of the time the teams are exposed to making decisions, and also to having them made for them.

Decision making in a VUCA world

In today’s changing and complex environment, where there are no recipes that allow us to solve any problem anywhere, even if they are similar, it is collective intelligence, the sum of perspectives and learning that will help us to make better decisions.

Decision making in self-organized teams

Today there is talk of self-organized teams, this consists of them being able to make decisions among themselves, instead of waiting for someone to make them for them, that is where leadership changes.

Enabling group decision-making

A great leader is not only a person with great vision and direction. They are also capable of driving teams to make their own decisions.

Effective decision making in teams will allow leaders to:

  • Get involved in more strategic issues.
  • Stop worrying about making all the decisions.
  • Avoid being a bottleneck.

How to involve team members in decision-making?

If you have noticed the importance of team decision-making and want to enable your own team to take on more decisions themselves,I have compiled a few tips for you – along with some useful Management 3.0 tools to foster this change.

It is important that each member of the team is aware of the importance of their work for the achievement of objectives.

A prerequisite for enabling team decisions is a safe environment, where team members can express their opinions without fear of being judged, ignored, or rejected. This is called psychological safety and you can learn more about it here.

In order to foster team members making decisions on their own, it’s important they work in a culture of experimentation and learning. Often when making decisions, we make mistakes. Being wrong is part of learning. Therefore, it is important to ensure that people are not punished, or called out, for mistakes.  

I remember that some time ago a new leader approached me and complained that her team was not committed or feeling responsible. Team members asked her to decide literally everything, despite her having delegated certain tasks or objectives to them.

When I spoke with the team, they all agreed that this was true. Indeed she had delegated tasks or activities to them. But still, they wanted her to continue making the decisions – why? 

The answer was simple: Every time they made a decision, they were told they made the wrong choice. Their manager pointed them out, scolded them, and put them on display.

As a servant leader it is important to be able to identify which decisions need to be delegated, and to leave the decisions with these people. Then, give the people the information and support they need to make the best decisions. 

tools

A tool that helps with clarifying delegation areas is Delegation Poker. It helps us understand how people feel about decisions that need to be made, and whether they need to participate in them or not.

When delegating decisions to the team, they realize they have no idea how to reach an agreement! Often people seek to make decisions democratically (even when that isn’t  necessary) and they do not reach agreements. 

What makes a decision-making team effective?

– Information

To make a decision, it is important to have the necessary information, to understand where we stand and the possible impacts or benefits that the different options have.

– Several options

When faced with a decision, it is important to think of different alternatives. Brainstorming is essential because each person may see the situation differently. Together they can reach more complete conclusions.

– Reflect on the present moment

Sometimes we make decisions very quickly and do not analyze how we are doing, so it would be good for the teams to analyze according to the nature of the decision:

– Focus on the future and not only on the present

Let your team reflect on the consequences that this decision may have in the future. Often we opt for solutions that solve problems in the short term but are counterproductive in the long run.

– Advantages and disadvantages

Following up on this, if there are several options, it is important to analyze their advantages and disadvantages, to make the best decision.

Hybrid Team Decision-Making
Also read: Why Every Leader Benefits From Team Autonomy or How to multiply Autonomy and Empowerment in your team with Delegation Poker by Management 3.0

Steps to facilitate effective team decision-making meetings

1. Identify the situation, the problem, and the decision to be made

To make a good decision we should start with a common understanding of the situation we are going through: What is the problem? How relevant is it? All team members should be on the same page.

2. Investigate the cause of the problem

Once the problem has been identified, we should explore its origin. Understanding the root cause prevents making decisions that are only covering the symptoms. Have you heard about the 5 Whys and the Ishikawa Diagram, better known as the Fishbone Diagram?

Determine the people involved in the decision
A mistake that we sometimes make is wanting every decision to be democratic. Should team members who do not have the required knowledge and/or are not impacted by the decision, be participating in a decision? Perhaps only some or even just one person should make a decision, with everyone supporting the outcome. Why not create a Team Decision Matrix with your team to see what has to be decided and by whom?

3. Think of different solution alternatives

Now that we know more about the problem and its possible cause, it is important to think of solutions. Everyone can propose ideas from their u. I suggest that in 2-3 minutes people silently write their ideas on post-its, after that time they share them with each other.

4. Select the best option

Since the options have been shared with everyone, it is time to choose the best one, here we can do some or all of the following options:

  • Value and Effort Matrix to place the different options between both axes, this will allow us to understand which is the option that would generate the least effort and have the greatest impact.
  • Dot vote, where we place the different options (grouped in case they are similar) on a wall or canvas and give each member a certain amount of “dots” that can be circle-shaped stickers or simply a sharpie on which they can draw a dot on the post-its for which they vote. In the end, the option with the most votes wins.

5. Analyze the selected option

Since the option has been selected, it is now important to analyze it further, some questions that could be asked and answered as a group are the following:

  • What do we have to do to make it successful?
  • What do we need?
  • What could prevent it from being successful?
  • How will we know if it was successful?
  • How does it make us feel?
  • What are we not looking at?

Having more clarity will help the team have more confidence and certainty.

6. Determine the level of confidence in the decision

Since we better understand the challenges and opportunities of the selected option, it is important to know how much confidence and commitment the team has to this decision. A technique that we can use is “Fist to Five”, which allows us to determine the level of clarity and confidence we have in a decision, from 0 to 5.

If the result is low, we can investigate to understand, perhaps reformulate or even choose another option. If it is high we can move forward with that decision.

Team Decision-Making Prioritization
Are you familiar with Tuckman’s stages of team development?

7. Report the decision to the leader and/or the rest of the team (optional)

According to the level of delegation established with the leader (and if they participated), and if not the whole team participated in the decision, I recommend informing them about the decision being made so that everyone is aware.

Conclusion on facilitating team decision-making

As Maxwell says, tomorrow we will be what we decide now, which is why it is important to involve teams and promote effective decision-making.

We need to build the future that we want and decisions are a key factor of that. It is important to emphasize that despite involving the team and analyzing together, what we decide will not always work out well. This is something that we cannot predict.

Steps on effective team decision-making

We shouldn’t punish ourselves when something goes wrong. We simply have to adapt to change, learn from our mistakes, and see what we can do to address the situation as a whole.

Together we go further!

I thank Magda Aguilar, Ricardo Granados, Rolando Jurado, Serge Paez, and the Management 3.0 team for their support and review of this article.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

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