xxxii) How to Help Teams Make Decisions



. Reaching collective decisions based on individual preferences is an imperfect science and is akin to a "voting paradox", ie different subsets of the team can generate conflicting majorities for all possible alternatives. This can lead to the senior manager making the final choice, ie dictator-by-default syndrome, which may leave the team dissatisfied.

. Furthermore, decisions can be forced into a "yes or no" framework which ignores or marginalises important considerations.

Managing the Impossible

. Some tactics

- articulate clearly what outcomes you are seeking (all team members should agree on what they are trying to achieve and how this will be measured; it is important to keep discussions on the desired outcomes separate from discussions on how to achieve them)

- provide a range of options for achieving outcomes (move away from simplistic "accept", "reject", and "defer" alternatives to a wider range of options)

- test assumptions (encourage continual challenging of assumptions)

- indicate preferences early (use techniques like non-binding votes at the start of the meeting, surveys prior to the meeting, etc to get an indication of areas of agreement, disagreement, stumbling blocks, etc)

- understand each option's advantages and disadvantages (understand all sides of every option; if required, use a devil's advocate approach; discourage personal attacks)

- investigate variations of current options (devise new options that include the best features of the existing ones)

Ground Rules

. Explicit confidentiality (encourage frank discussions that "stay in the room")

. Deliberate over an appropriate time frame (allow enough time for required discussions)


"... a team cannot make effective decisions if its members don't trust one another well or if they fail to listen to one another..."

Bob Fisch, 2008

(source: Bob Fisch, 2008)


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