Getting decisions made in groups

It can be harder to reach a decision when a lot of people are involved, but it needn’t be.
Lots of decisions need to be made by groups and it’s annoying to see the time wasted – usually because no-one takes responsibility, or more often there is no agreed method to make the decisions.

Problems with group decisions

1. Delaying tactics

I have seen countless meetings where an important decision needs to be made, or even a small decision, and for some reason it seems easiest to opt for waiting! People say “let’s decide next time”, or “we can work that out later”. It’s a classic avoidance of decisions, simple procrastination on a group scale. So first up we should be more efficient with not allowing decisions to spill over to later.

2. Taking too long

Then there seems to be those groups where a decision is being made, sometimes a seemingly trivial one and it takes forever to make that decision. People waver, some don’t say anything, some can’t make up their minds, and some are simply nervous about commitment to a decision.

3. Poor quality decisions

Many decisions are a compromise, or not good quality decisions, sometimes with people lacking commitment to the decision that has been made, or not even fully knowing or understanding the decision


Strategies for decision making


1. Consensus decision making


Getting a consensus is good because it harnesses group resources – there is a synergy in the group. Gaining a consensus encourages participation and generates high commitment. It can be time consuming, and certainly requires skills such as listening and flexibility on the part of the group leader.


2. Majority vote decision making


This is a quick and useful method if time is limited. All you need is a majority agreement – 51%. The result is the majority are committed, but a minority lack commitment. So depending on the decision outcomes this method might not always be appropriate.


3. Minority vote decision making

In this situation a smaller working party or committee are delegated the responsibility of making a decision. It can be speedy and effective, but the real problem can occur later when others are not committed to the decisions and actions taken by the smaller group.


4. Expert decision making

One person with special knowledge, vested with authority, can make a decision on behalf of a whole group. They can be from inside or outside the group. This is good for technical matters, emergencies, safety matters and production issues.


5. Random choice decision making

This involves flipping coin or selecting straws. Here it doesn’t matter what the outcome is, it just enables a choice to be made effectively. You must have evenly balanced issues – and limited time available.


6. Gut-feeling decision making

This is the way many like to make decisions. It is about what “feels right”. It may not seem logical, but “gut-feeling” or intuition can be a reasonable way to go if the group agrees for one person to do this, or the person is the designated leader or decision maker. Increasingly businesses are using intuition for innovation and creativity decisions.


Agree on up-front decision-making technique

Decisions are best made when the decision style is chosen up-front and agreed. The style should suit the group, the leader (if there is a designated leader) and the circumstances. Determine how quickly a decision needs to be made who will be implementing it.





Written by Eve Ash, Managing Director of Seven Dimensions and co-producer with Peter Quarry of the video Decision Making in Groups – a TAKE AWAY TRAINING SERIES title by Ash.Quarry Productions.

Click here for more Eve Ash blogs



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