When the topic of decision-making comes up, it is often a debate on how does one make the right decisions, rather than the wrong ones. However, this focus completely undermines the fact that for a decision to be of any value it has to be implemented successfully.
Decision-making in corporations is complex and fundamentally if the process is not conducted in the right way there can be severe repercussions for the potential value that is created. The most obvious issues include:
- Lack of participation leading to substantial delays in reaching a decision
- Lack of ownership in the decision leading to a lack of team engagement and productivity
- Lack of commitment in implementing a decision leading to fragmentation, misalignment and poorer outcomes
So how does one go about establishing the right conditions for team decision-making to be optimal? I believe consideration should be focused on the following areas:
- Establish team working
- Understand the objective
- Identify the challenges
- Build insights
- Consider all options
- Ensure alignment on identified solution
- Test and validate to build confidence and commitment
- Focus and implement
ESTABLISH TEAM WORKING
Leading a team requires key leadership skills and it is very important to establish clarity on how the decision-making process will be conducted. Different nationalities have different ways of reaching decisions and this can be quite alarming when it is not familiar. It is also essential that the approach to decision-making is highly democratic in respect that everyone has a voice, every voice is equal and every voice is listened to. Here is a link to another blog titled “Procurement and the challenge of distributed teams” that provides some considerations for creating a high performance team.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Michael Jordan, Retired American Professional Basketball Player
UNDERSTAND THE OBJECTIVE
The most usual case is that members of the team may have different objectives or different perspectives on the same objectives, so you need to start with a clear Core Purpose. Once the end goal (destination) is set it becomes easier to develop and agree on a strategy to get there. It is the outcome that is important, rather than the process by which that outcome is reached.
IDENTIFY THE CHALLENGES
Define the problems, challenges and barriers to success. Be honest. Once you have identified these, you will be able to ignore distractions and focus on working to resolve and overcome the identified impediments. Identifying and addressing primary constraints are the single biggest reason why change does not happen and why team initiatives do not succeed.
“A problem well-defined is a problem half solved.” John Dewey
The better informed the team, the easier it will be to remove subjectivity and to make insightful decisions. There are generally three rules in business when it comes to decision-making, in an environment when goals are not clear and information is scant at best:
- Everyone has an opinion
- Every opinion if different
- Every opinion is right
Very simply the more insightful the debate, the easier it is to reach agreement.
“Collective Wisdom outshines individual judgment.” Vineet Nayar, Author Employees First, Customers Second
CONSIDER ALL OPTIONS
Consider all points of view and recommendations. The approach needs to be inclusive to promote and encourage all team members to fully participate. The best way forward often comes from the most unexpected source. Each recommendation should be treated equally and with respect.
It is crucial that each individual team member is engaged and that their agreement is provided. I have been in corporations where I attended a presentation and as I did not question the position, my silence was taken as tacit agreement. This is not acceptable. Everyone needs to voice their full agreement in an open and collaborative way.
“My opinion, my conviction, gains immensely in strength and sureness the minute a second mind has adopted it.” Novalis (1772 – 1801), German Author and Philosopher
TEST AND VALIDATE
Risk and the fear of failure can motivate some team members to withdraw their full agreement. This needs to be addressed and the best way to do this is to test the agreed hypothesis and to work through this to create validated learnings. This not only ensures you have found the best solution but it further motivates commitment, builds confidence and ensures the entire team’s full focus and support is provided.
FOCUS AND IMPLEMENT
When a team is participating in a single programme, it is likely that all team members will have differing priorities and tasks so it is important that roles and responsibilities are well-defined. In addition, having made a decision, there is no value in questioning the decision. The best possible decision has been made and the team should focus on implementing it to the best of their ability. It may turn out that a better decision could have been made, but you will never know until you act.
“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellency becomes a reality.” Joe Paterno (1926 – ), American College Football Coach
Decision-making is often an integral part of a change management programme and therefore another useful guide for this is Growth River’s Seven Principles for Team Effectiveness:
- Inspired by purpose (well-defined clear goal or desired outcome)
- Focused on a shared journey (detailed process for achievement)
- Accountable and collaborative mindset
- Right skills in the right roles
- Strong and clear interdependencies, reinforcing team agreements
- Advocating strategies from a customer value perspective
- Laser focused on implementation that resolves primary constraints for the highest impact and return on investment (ROI)
The process of effective decision-making lies at the heart of why many companies find it challenging to run successful pan-regional programmes. This is especially true in complex areas like shopper marketing where very different retail landscapes are coupled with consumers with different needs, expectations, languages and cultures. In these cases, it is imperative that a clear and intentional process is created that will guide decision-making for all stakeholders in a fair, equitable and clear way.