In the last article, we learned all about communication. Before we can get to the next two parts of this series, decision-making and implementation, remember that the quality of our conversations is key. Decision-making requires effective meetings with a clear purpose and effective communication among the people involved.
Making effective decisions is surprisingly, and unfortunately, not so common. Things generally could be much better. In order to chart a better path forward, it is useful to have a model that we can easily implement and rely on. In this decision-making model, I am presenting, there are really only 5 possibilities regarding who “owns” the decision:
- I decide: when information is mainly held within the person involved and a fast decision needs to be made
- We discuss, I decide: This is one of the most used models. One person is responsible but wants to make a more informed decision, and other people have relevant knowledge or perspectives. Another reason to implement this is if you need high levels of engagement from people participating in the implementation coming after. For this, you might need a meeting. The more effective it is, the better information and engagement you will find.
- We discuss, We decide: This is what we many times call “consensus”. We need to use this type when we are discussing topics related to the team itself: our values, operational agreements, and big strategic choices. But let’s be cautious, as people misunderstand what consensus means — it is not 100% alignment, but means we can live with the 80-20 rule. Yes, it is hard to have 100% alignment among 10 or 20 people or even more. Then, we need to go with the flow and what most people are aligned with. When we are not in full agreement we just need to ask if we can still go with the flow, and this should be true unless there is an ethical or legal issue with the decision that was made. If it’s just a matter of different perspectives, we need to learn to let go and respect what the majority is inclined to.
- We discuss, You decide: this is complementary to “we discuss, I decide”. In this case, we acknowledge that we empower people while still bringing the knowledge and expertise from others.
- You decide: when someone has the role and expertise to lead this, we should help them do so. It is a clear way to give accountability and decision-making power to someone.
What must be done is pretty simple: define who makes the decision, and how, before making the decision. And then, everyone involved should commit to the outcome upfront. A big roadblock that often comes in the way is that we don’t clarify how we are making decisions. Before starting the actual discussion, clarify who is the decision maker, and what is the mechanism. Start the discussion with the decision-making model already clear.
Once the decision-making model is clear, the common issues highlighted at the start of the article are taken care of as well. People know who is making the decision, even if they disagree on the decision or way forward, they have bought into the process (barring ethical or legal concerns), and they are kept in the loop from the start so that they don’t have to fear outcomes after decisions have already been made. When we put together effective meetings, communication, and decision-making, we have added a lot of productivity and relationship effectiveness to our lives. Think about the positive effects this can have on the individuals, the team, and on business results.