Effective teams use many different decision-making strategies, depending on several key factors:
- The amount of buy-in necessary to support implementation
- How much time is available to make the decision
- How important the issue or decision is
- Who has the information or expertise needed to make the decision
- The developmental level of the team
Strategies to Make Team Decisions
Command Decision. The team leader or expert decides. Useful when a decision needs to be made quickly and the leader or expert is in control of the situation. Explain the reasons for making the decision to other team members as soon as possible.
Ask Individual Team Members, Then Decide. The team leader collects information from each individual and then makes a decision. Useful when you cannot assemble everyone in one place. Explain the criteria for making the decision, how each team member will be involved, and what type of input you need (ideas, suggestions, information). Be consistent in your questions and let the team know what you found out.
Team Input, Then Decide. By gathering the team together, you are creating opportunities for creativity, synergy, and buy-in. But this will take more time, and you may create conflict if you decide against the team’s recommendation. The key is to explain the criteria for making the decision, how the team members will be involved, what type of input you want, and set a time limit for discussion.
Majority Vote is useful when the issue is relatively inconsequential or the team is stuck. Americans are pretty comfortable with a hand vote. Ensure everyone understands what is being voted on and the rules involved before the actual vote is taken.
Minority Rule or the loudest, most overbearing voice wins. This is usually the standard default for minor team decisions and inconsequential issues. It does, however, require a team member to have the courage to speak up with an opposing viewpoint.
Unanimous. The hardest strategy to achieve, all team members must agree on a specific position. This strategy is not recommended unless you must have all team members agree.
Consensus. Everyone can live with and support the decision upon implementation. For important issues where the team needs to educate themselves on the positions and issues, as well as implement the decision, most teams aim for consensus. The key is to explain exactly what consensus means — the team can and will not only live with the decision but will support it upon implementation. Outline any constraints on the decision (time, financial, resources, political). Agree on a “fallback” strategy within a prescribed period of time, or you may never agree!
Regardless of which strategy you choose, every team member should know how the decision is going to be made and the guidelines involved.
Take a look at how your team makes decisions. Do you use a broad range of strategies, depending on the situation, or are you stuck using just a few? As a team, discuss how you might improve the ways your team makes decisions.