How to Unstick Team Decision Making

How to Unstick Team Decision Making
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Team Decision Making
Decision making is the process of selecting between two or more courses of action. We know from leadership simulation assessment data that many work decisions are relatively straightforward and easy to make. In team decision making, however, it’s far more likely that you face a more complicated set of issues.

Team leaders in our action learning leadership development programs report teams getting stuck on:

As the team leader, you need to figure out how to unstick team decision making.

Overcome the Team Decision Making Deadlock
When the decision making process bogs down and competing viewpoints lead to misunderstanding, a lack of patience and, ultimately, frustration with the whole effort, it’s time to implement a decision making strategy to help move the team toward a mutually acceptable, appropriate, and sound decision.

Here are some tips from decision making training on how to move a stuck team forward:

  • Stop and Agree Upon What’s Happening
    Instead of pushing forward, stuck teams should stop, take stock, and agree upon what is working and not working in the decision making process. Similar to a project post mortem, take the time to learn and improve.  While it may feel like you do not have the time to slow down, research conducted by the Wharton School, Cornell, and the University of Colorado, shows it can increase the team’s results by almost 33%.
  • Agree Upon a Decision Making Framework
    Decisive teams are aligned in their decision making approach. They use a proven and agreed upon decision making framework to act decisively by:

    — Clarifying the decision to be made
    — Defining the desired decision outcomes
    — Building decision-making criteria and success metrics
    — Unlocking stakeholder and team commitment
    — Avoiding common decision making traps and biases
    — Communicating decisions for greater commitment and buy-in

  • Create Psychological Team Safety
    When we assess organizational culture, we find that stuck teams often need to create a better environment to effectively debate ideas, options, and next steps openly and constructively. If team members are afraid to ask challenging questions, you will not gain the buy-in required to unlock full team commitment to your decisions.
  • Actively Facilitate the Discussion
    Many teams choose to hire an expert facilitator to help with complex, important, but difficult decisions. But if the trust level of your team is generally high, a respected team leader can help conduct an in-depth discussion of alternatives, provide guidance in selecting the best of them, and create a plan of action.

    The challenge is to balance team members following the decision making framework with people feeling heard. Borrow from meeting facilitation best practices and ensure that team members listen to one another with respect and without interruption, encourage follow-up questions to help clarify thinking, and value open debate. If everyone is given a fair hearing, even the naysayers will feel that they had an opportunity to share their thinking.

The Bottom Line
How good is your team at making decisions? Do they often get bogged down and stuck in the mud of misunderstanding, strategic ambiguity, and indecisiveness? Help lead your team out of the morass with basic ground rules for the discussions, a focus on clarity, open communication, and agreement upon the common goal.

To learn more about how to improve team decision making, download 3 Steps to Set Your Team Up to Make Better Decisions

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