Deciding How to Decide: Team Decision Methods
In organizations, teams often choose a single method for all decisions. However, agreeing on the decision method according to the characteristics of the situation could be more effective. When should each method be used?
Before making a decision as a team, we must always agree on how we are going to make it. To analyze the decision method we will use, it is important to first distinguish those decisions where there is a large number of individuals with little possibility of interacting and influencing each other, from those decisions reserved for a small group of individuals, who can interact and influence each other. We can call the first situation, “collective choice” while the second, “group decision”. It should be noted that it is recommended that the decision methods used in each case be different.
In the world of politics, for example, the objective of democratic collective choice is not only to make decisions effectively, but also to represent the will of a people. On the other hand, in the management of a business, this second objective does not exist as such, and a group decision must always seek to achieve the greatest effectiveness and efficiency possible to increase business results.
In a group decision, it is necessary to establish methods that allow moving from individual decisions to a single decision that globally reflects the opinions and interests of the group members. Aligning the objectives and decision criteria, and establishing the mechanisms that avoid indecision, will be the key to unblock the processes and lead to action. In a group business decision, relying on consensus or majority search and agreement seems to be at least inefficient as a decision method, let alone believing that a decision supported by many is the best decision for the business.
In a company, it is necessary to have decision methods that focus on the efficiency of the process and guarantee that the best alternative was chosen to achieve the best possible results.
A consensus method would require everyone to agree. A democratic method would require that the majority do so. In neither of these methods are clear decision roles established, nor are knowledge or decision-making capacities organized in such a way as to optimize results.
Each decision has its own complexity and level of ambiguity and requires the use of an appropriate method to be made efficiently. For example, in crisis situations, even a unilateral decision method might be very appropriate for quick decisions but would clearly miss out on capturing all the wealth of a team decision.
A widely used method in business is usually the consultative decision method. In this case, a person with the role of “decision maker” consults experts by area to form their judgment and make a decision. Undoubtedly, this method greatly improves the efficiency of a business decision over consensus or democratic methods, but it concentrates the workload on the decision maker and also loses the possibility of capturing the wealth that could be generated by the interaction of experts with each other.
The collaborative method, on the other hand, makes it possible to do so. In this case, a clearly identified decision maker establishes different communication channels that include dialogue between the different people involved in a decision, thus capturing all the potential that can be generated by this interaction and excluding the decision maker from instances of unnecessary participation.
This decision method is superior in effectiveness over the rest but requires the prior definition of clear decision roles to achieve its efficiency. A consensus method would require everyone to agree. A democratic method would require that the majority do so. In neither of these methods are clear decision roles established, nor are knowledge or decision-making capacities organized in such a way as to optimize results.
An expert in decision making must be able to design efficient decision processes that avoid situations of indecision. For this, they must collaborate with the decision team to establish the best method and provide the appropriate decision tools for each key business decision.
With efficient decision methods in an organization, it is not necessary to spend time looking for majorities and consensus. Consensus in a company would then seem the most inefficient of methods. But, regardless of whether there is consensus or not, there does need to be commitment to action. And for this, the best way is to involve people, yes, with clear methods and roles that ensure efficiency.
Changing focus from consensus to commitment will help us center on the team, optimize resources, and increase the rate of implementation, thus impacting at the same time on the result, the mood of our decision teams and the future of our organization.
Partner at Tandem.