Is Your Team’s Decision-Making Process a Conscious One?

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Climbers-resized-for-blog-photo.jpgArticle by Jim Jensen:

Our work, being primarily with leadership teams, gives us many opportunities to explore the complexities of decision making.  In our experience, what complicates things the most is not that a team’s decision-making process is complex, but very often they simply do not have one, or their decision-making process is informal and often unconscious.  In other words, it is littered with opportunities for miscommunication and unchecked assumptions.

In Crux Move’s Team Self-Assessment there are a number of items related to decision-making that we ask teams to rank. Four of those items are: 

  • We involve others in those decisions that will affect them.
  • We consult with and consider each other when making decisions.
  • When we leave a meeting, we are very clear about the decisions that we made.
  • When we make a decision as a team, there is no doubt that we are all on board.

Culturally speaking, imagine the impact when a team can honestly give these items a high rating and conversely imagine the impact of these items being rated low.  How would your team rate them? 

We’ll talk more about formal decision making processes in a later post, but essentially, these involve a set of rules about how decisions will be made, who will be involved and to what extent.  

It may sound a little odd, but in our experience leadership teams often make decisions with barely any awareness that they just made one.  During a discussion, someone will say, “So, should we do that?” Someone else will say “Sure.”  And a decision is made…kind of… with little or no thought about who will be impacted or who is on-board.  Then later, either that someone or that someone else will mention the decision that was made and other teammates will say they don’t remember that happening, despite having been at the same meeting.  This can easily happen when a team has no formal decision-making process, or when their decision making is more unconscious, meaning that not everyone was clear on the decision, or that they are unaware of all the ramifications. 

Improvement in these decision-making behaviors requires an increase of self-awareness.  First, to simply pay attention to when a decision has been made “informally.”  Sounds easy, but again it often goes unnoticed.  Secondly, when you are aware that a decision has been made, ask yourself:  Are others in the room aware we just made a decision? Do I believe we are all on-board?  Who does this impact and should we be checking with them? Better yet, if you become aware that a decision was made and you have any of these questions, ask them out loud. 

A formal or structured decision-making process ensures that questions like these get raised.  But you don’t have to use a structured process to make your decision-making more conscious.  In lieu of a formal process, one strategy for a team leader to employ is to end meetings with a question.  “Before we end, have we made any decisions?” If yes, “What were they?” Then follow up by asking those questions in the previous paragraph.  In a healthy team culture these questions can generate some good, productive, healthy conflict and debate that leads to clarity and buy-in.  So, make sure you ask this question with more than just a minute remaining. 

If these critical decision-making behaviors are lacking in your organization or team culture, your team meetings are a place you can practice them.  The more people see the value of behaviors that lead to better decisions, and the more they practice those behaviors, the more likely those behaviors will become part of everyone’s consciousness.   Formal or structured decision-making processes resonate with some leaders and teams, and not with others.  Regardless of how structured or unstructured yours is, making it a more conscious process will make you more effective.

I hope you found this helpful. 


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Guest Tuesday, 16 January 2018

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