It’s time for your team to up its game.
You will turn your team into a decision-making machine. Those decisions will be right, and they will be made fast.
Are you ready? As a leader, here are seven actions that will improve your team’s decision-making abilities.
1. Set the expectations prior to the meeting
When you send your meeting invites, along with the agenda, alert people to the decisions they will make during the meeting.
Be clear about it. Suppose you have an agenda item labeled: Accounting System Update. Add a line of description that spells out the decision. We will decide whether to fix our current system or purchase a new one.
Also let people know what their role will be in making the decision. Are they providing input to you so that you can make the decision or will the group make the decision as a whole?
If you don’t have a standard method of making decisions such as consensus or voting, identify the process you will use for this decision.
2. Send out the background material
Facts matter when you want to improve decision-making quality. That means people need the background information prior to the meeting.
When you send out the information, tell people it’s important they review it. To reinforce this idea, don’t use meeting time for a presentation of the materials. You told them to read it. Act as if they did.
Because you may not have or anticipate everything your team members might need to make the decision, include this request: If you think of other information that we might need prior to making this decision, please gather it and send copies to the other team members.
3. Make the question clear
When you reach the decision time in your agenda, make sure everyone knows that the goal is to decide and what the question is that you are trying to answer. Here’s how that might sound:
- As a reminder, in previous meetings we learned about the deficiencies our current accounting system has. Today, our goal is to decide whether to fix the current system or start from scratch and buy a new one.
- Our NW Region has been under-performing for the last year. Today we will examine three proposals for turning it around and will make a yes or no decision for each proposal.
4. Have viable options
If your group is to make a decision, it requires options. Often there is a single proposal before the group, and the decision it needs to make is simply yes or no.
Even in those yes/no decisions, people will often add amendments. Once they’ve done so, the decision changes from yes/no to multiple choice.
I’m a fan of multiple choice decisions. I think it better reflects reality. There are almost always options. A group that doesn’t have any hasn’t made the effort to develop some.
Some groups come up with too many options and can’t get their heads wrapped around all the possibilities. In these cases, you’ll be wise to narrow a longer list down to the top three. That process can quickly occur by using some sort of voting or ranking methodology.
5. Give each option a full evaluation
Once you have your list down to a few options, give each its day in court. There are a couple ways you can do this.
- Use the natural proponents and opponents. If there are people in your group who have strong opinions, let them each make their cases.
- Use one dimensional thinking. One at a time, ask the group to first identify all the reasons to select an option. Then ask them to voice the reasons to oppose it. Push them hard to get it all out on the table for consideration.
This process is complete when everyone has had their say, and all believe the cases for and against have been presented and understood.
6. Call the question
In parliamentary procedure there’s a motion to call the question. It means, let’s stop talking and make the decision.
To speed up your decision-making, you or someone in the group needs to call the question. The trick is to not do it before steps 4 & 5 have ended. But once they have, don’t waste another minute. Make the decision.
There are some decisions that come before the group with limited options and a pre-existing strong consensus about what to do. In those cases, call it early. One way to test whether the group is ready is by asking “Is there anyone who needs more information before offering an opinion?” If not, why would you continue talking?
When you know there won’t be any debate at all, cut to the chase. Ask the group to decide right now.
Better yet, don’t put the question to the group at all. Unless there’s a legal or policy-based reason for doing so, just confirm everyone’s agreement prior to the meeting, and use the meeting time for something that does require the group’s consideration.
7. Use the agreed upon methodology to decide
At this point you implement your decision-making process. This could be:
- Majority rules
- Loudest rules
- Authority rules
Options 2 & 4 are usually pretty fast. Either you, as the leader, make the call based on all that you’ve heard or you put it to a vote. Assuming there isn’t a tie, you are done.
Option 1 is typically how most groups attempt to make their decision. This can take a while, but if you’ve done the previous steps well, trust the process and talk it through. You’ll figure it out.
If you continue to struggle and find yourself deadlocked, you may want to read this article about how to move through an impasse.
Finally, if option 3 is the one that typically gets used, it’s time to revisit your decision-making process.
Just a few more things to do
Good for you. Your group made the decision.
Now you’ll want to turn that decision into action. There are a few other steps that will help you do so:
- Restate the decision to make sure everyone’s clear on what they just agreed upon.
- Identify next steps. Who needs to do something as a result of the decision? Be specific.
- Allocate resources. Making decisions without providing the necessary resources is a pathway to frustration.
- Move on. You made the decision. Support it and deal with the next problem that needs the group’s attention.
There’s nothing more important a team can do than to make high-quality decisions. Making them fast helps you build an agile organization.
Few teams are good at this. Yours can be one that is.