Team decision-making is a core factor in the professional services industry. But it’s also a complex, challenging activity. Do it right, and you will deliver smart solutions for your clients and make your company look good. Do it poorly, and you’ll end up with biased, unsupported, or poor decisions that could make you lose clients.
Related topic: Is Groupthink Eating Up Your Team's Decision-Making Ability?
But no matter how complex team decision-making is, it’s one effective way to arrive at a solid decision. A large breadth of perspective can help us come up with the best solutions for our business problems.When decisions involve a huge amount of data, or when they require different ideas and an exploration of different angles — for these things, you will need a team. Your team could be the board, the managers, team leaders, or even your rank-and-file employees.
When you’re faced with team-based decisions, what’s the best way for you to manage the team and ensure the decision reached is the best possible solution?
Factors in Team Decision-Making
Team-based decisions often give way to a large variety of viewpoints and skills. The best way to manage these differences involves a consideration of the following factors:
- The type of decision – Are these decisions strategic in nature? Are they related to performance? Does this concern how things are done in the company? Will the team be directly affected with the outcome?
- Availability – How much time and resources can be allocated to deal with the decision?
- The nature of the task – Will the team be able to bring the appropriate knowledge and expertise required?
- Commitment – Will the team be committed to deliver?
How Can We Ensure Team Consensus?
Now that you’ve considered the factors above, it’s time to align your team and reach a decision. We’ll explore a few techniques you can use to ensure all team members is given a say in the decision and feel valued. This way, it becomes easier for team members to compromise and find a central point of agreement, leading to the final decision.
Ensure and Encourage Participation
Have you ever had one of those team meetings where a certain member pitches ideas more assertively than the rest? This can often result in a skewed conclusion, which can have negative repercussions on the company. To reduce the likelihood of this occurring, you can introduce the Stepladder Technique during team discussions.
To summarise, this method begins with each member thinking about the problem individually. Then the leader calls for them — one at a time — and asks for their input in a one-on-one setting. The outcome of this method? Members will feel heard and acknowledged. Members’ opinions won’t be influenced by the opinions of those around them, and they’ll feel more confident about their conclusions than they would in a group environment where others’ opinions may be extremely different from theirs.
We’re all familiar with this method, having lived through elections and company meetings. Voting is useful when you’re served with many options — but what happens when all options get an equal amount of votes? You get no conclusive decision.
The solution to this dilemma? Multi-voting. Each member of the team is given a certain number of votes with different weights. Each member then goes through all the options and assigns a weight to each solution. This encourages group members to think through each option more thoroughly and the use of weighted votes decreases the chance of a stalemate.
We’re usually able to prioritise our tasks, but when we’re placed in a group environment, it becomes a little harder to rank and prioritise everybody’s tasks collectively. The most common problem faced is that all managers think that their project should be prioritised over than others’ — so how can we reach a resolution?
For situations like this, the Modified Borda Count comes in handy: it establishes a framework for ranking priorities and will aid the team in deciding which option will best qualify those priorities.
Involve the Team in Developing a Solution
When you are working with people with diverse personalities and viewpoints in a complex project where the solution is not clear, sometimes it’s difficult to arrive at a well-supported decision. By using Hartnett’s Consesus-Oriented Decision-Making model, all the members of the team is involved in developing a solution, making them feel ownership of the final decision, boosting their ability to think of creative ideas without fearing judgement.
If there is an issue or a problem that you reckon needs team involvement in order to be solved, then consider using the consensus method. Although it is time consuming, the benefits are powerful — there’s a sense of equality among the decision makers as everybody gets a chance to speak, you arrive at a high-quality decision that’s supported by the team, and there’s effective implementation due to a sense of ownership and commitment.
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Glenn graduated with a commerce degree in 1998 and, like most Kiwis, bought a one-way ticket to London. He began his career as a 21-year-old at Saatchi & Saatchi managing strategy for Procter & Gamble business across Europe. He later moved client side and has worked for three of the most strategic organisations on the planet — Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola.