We are incapable of making decisions in our team. How do we break this impasse?

In the work I do with teams, decision-making or lack of effective decision-making is a common issue that impacts team performance. Once this is resolved it assists teams greatly to move forward and become more productive and efficient.

In our lives we are required to constantly make decisions – some minor, some major – and we usually have a process to do this which can vary in effectiveness. In a team environment add more personalities, differing agendas and views and you have a recipe for potential conflict, avoidance and frustration. Despite all of this, we somehow get through. However, not always without pain, frustration, and at the cost of team performance.

Decision-making in our professional lives becomes complex, there is often large amounts of information to process, opinions and expertise to take note of, the need to ‘socialise’ the idea and gain buy in. Then there are the consequences of the decision to consider, the impact of the decision on the individual, team and organisation. It can be easy to avoid the responsibility of owning and being responsible for the decision made, therefore teams can get stuck in an endless cycle of ‘collaboration’ – often no one wants to own the decision.

It is little wonder that with all of this going on we stall.

There is an easier way!

Some tips to help your team decision-making process:

1. Consider the type of decision that needs to be made

2. Who needs to be involved in the decision?

3. Who and what does the decision impact?

4. Who needs to be informed but not involved in the decision?

5. What knowledge is required to make the decision?

6. What is the timeline – when does this decision need to be made by? (Put a date on it)

7. Who has the ultimate say on the decision, who owns it! It is vital to establish this.

Is the decision clear, a one line statement that you all understand?

Often when I am working with a team and helping to facilitate around decisions that need to be made it can be like herding cats. Where teams get stuck is by losing sight of the decision that is being made.

Have a one line, clear statement. For example when JFK announced ‘we choose to go to the moon‘ it was clear what he was taking about. By sticking to the clear statement, the team were then able to establish what was required to make the decision and who had ultimate responsibility for the decision.

Assign someone the task of facilitating the process and keeping everyone focused on the decision/topic. When the conversation veers off-course, record any information you want to come back to on a ‘car park’ flip chart and bring the team back to the one line statement.

Be firm, keep checking in by asking: Is the current discussion directly related to making a decision on? (Refer back to the one line statement). If not, car park it; if yes, carry on.

The RACI model

There are a host of decision-making processes and models that teams can use to help. The one I keep going back to is the RACI Model.

Responsible: The person who does the work to achieve the task. They have responsibility for getting the work done. As a rule, this is one person. However, it can be shared.

Accountable: The person who is accountable for the decision, the decision-maker. This must be one person and is often the leader of the team, a project executive or project sponsor. This is the role that the ‘R’ is accountable to.

Consulted: Establish who needs to be consulted and clearly state that they are being consulted. They are the people who provide information for the project and with whom there is two-way communication. This is usually several people, often subject matter experts.

Informed: The people who are kept informed about progress and with whom there is one-way communication. These are people that are affected by the outcome of the tasks so need to be kept up-to-date.

Thinking carefully about who “needs to know” about actions and decisions is good stakeholder management.

You can use these four RACI terminologies to help you talk about accountability and authority in your team without constructing a formal RACI matrix. It is a powerful way to enhance collaboration and the decision-making process. Taking time to use the matrix will turbocharge the decision-making process.

R= Responsible

 

A=Accountable

 

C=Consulted

 

I=Informed

The Doer (s)-

 

 

Individual (s) who perform a task.

 

 

 

 

Rs can be shared

 

The Buck Stops Here-

 

Individual with yes/no decision making accountability & veto power.

Includes the responsibility of ensuring the work is done, and done well.

Only one A can be assigned per activity

 

In the Loop-

Individual(s)

 

Consulted PRIOR to a final decision or BEFORE action is taken. Two-way communication.

Can be more than one C

In the Picture-

 

 

Individual(s) who need to be informed AFTER a decision is made or action is taken. One-way communication.

Can be more than one I.

 

Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian-based coaching and training company.

 

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