Slow decision-making is the #1 complaint of collaborative teams and project management delays and failures. In this earlier blog, I introduced the consent decision-making process. This is useful when you need to make a decision relatively fast and need input from the people involved. It can include making decisions for new policies, processes, or procedures. You can trial them for a limited time and regularly review the decisions to make them ‘good enough for now and safe enough to try’. Because brave leaders let their people make decisions that are good for their customers, suppliers, and business!
Make better decisions faster
Here are three decision-making processes you can easily try in your team (or at home – what’s for dinner??):
The consent decision-making process, which prioritises speed over agreement, and encourages action and experimentation. This is a great option to test within a hierarchical group looking for more inclusion and power-sharing.
For more significant or risky decisions, you might want to go with consensus. It produces a stronger buy-in and team unity, but can take a long time. Consensus is very effective for increasing a shared understanding and creating strong bonds within a team.
To maximise autonomy, use the advice process. It makes use of collective intelligence by including people who will be affected by the decision and people who have experience with the topic at hand. This process works best if there is a strong alignment around purpose, and you have proactive measures
to support healthy disagreement. It’s particularly suited to decisions with unpredictable outcomes, or where special expertise is required.
Consent decision-making process:
- State the proposal: ‘I propose that from now on, we use Slack for team communication.‘
- Question round: everyone can ask clarifying questions so all understand what is being proposed: ‘Will we have team channels?‘, ‘Will we need to install it on our phones?‘, ‘Will we get trained on how to use it?‘, ‘Who is doing that training?‘
- Reaction round: everyone takes turns to give their reaction: ‘I love it.‘, ‘I don’t think it is the best solution.‘, ‘Maybe we could trial it for three months.‘
- Re-state proposal: the proposer may modify or clarify the proposal:’ I propose that from now on, we use Slack for team communication. We will set up team and topic channels. You only need to have the app installed on your work computer, having Slack on your phone is optional. We can find a 10-minute introductory video for using Slack and new team members get trained by their colleagues. We trial this for three months and review it again at the end.‘
- Objections: if anyone has a valid objection, the proposal needs to be modified. A valid objection is something like ‘I think there is a serious risk this proposal could do harm.’, not ‘I have a better idea.‘ or ‘I don’t like it.‘: ‘We need to check the data security settings to make sure they comply with our policy and most likely should not share financial data on Slack.‘
- Confirmation: everyone visually confirms the proposal by standing up or with a simple thumbs up, indicating ‘I’m happy to try this.‘
Consensus decision-making process:
- Introduce and clarify the issue or opportunity: ‘With more people working from home, we need to rethink some of our HR policies around working hours, recruitment and induction.‘
- Open up a wide ranging conversation by exploring possible ideas and solutions.
- Look for an emerging proposal.
- Discuss, clarify and amend the proposal. You could use the consent process here.
- Test for agreement:
- Agree/Support: ‘I support this proposal.‘
- Abstain/Stand aside: ‘I will neither support nor object.‘
- Disagree/Reservation: ‘I think the proposal could be improved, but I do not object to the group moving ahead without my support.‘
- Block/Veto: ‘I have a principled objection and cannot let the proposal proceed.‘
You may need to define some specific details, like:
- How many group members need to participate for a proposal to pass?
- How many ‘Abstains’ or ‘Disagrees’ can a proposal have and still pass?
- Who has the power to block?
- How much time can you allow for people to participate?
- Who is responsible for the process?
Advice decision-making process:
Here, anyone can make a decision. You need to ask for advice from people who will be affected, and people who have relevant expertise. You will also take responsibility for the outcome. As the decision-maker you own the decision. You don’t have to negotiate to satisfy everyone, but must genuinely listen to and understand the advice:
- Announce that you are seeking advice.
- Consult with people who will be affected, and people with relevant expertise.
- Make your decision.
- Announce the outcome. Ensure people know they were heard and understood, even if they disagree with your decision. Explain why you have or have not incorporated their advice.
So, be a brave leader and let your people make decisions that are good for business. To practice these processes before unleashing them onto your team, come along to one of my decision-making workshops.