You may not even notice you're making some decisions, while others can take a lot of time, be high risk, and cause you to feel anxious.
Decisions can make or break a project or an entire business. And they often involve complex and unpredictable interpersonal issues too.
People usually make decisions based on 3 approaches:
- thinking first
- seeing first
- doing first
Those can be used in different situations. Identifying which approach suits the problem is the critical competency here.
Let's say the team struggles to agree on the right way forward.
Tom is a dominant team member, so he rushes into the discussion with his decision and pushes it forward.
Mary argues that his idea could be more efficient, and David, who usually has great ideas, is overwhelmed by Tom and Mary to speak up.
So this discussion goes a long way, leaving everyone with the feeling that there is no way to make a final decision.
When personalities, viewpoints, and attitudes clash, reaching a consensus on a decision can be tricky.
What can you do to help your team make the right decision as a leader?
Eliminate external barriers in a discussion like phones, noisy environments, and overlapping events.
- Encourage participation
You can use liberating structures or facilitative listening to ensure everyone has a say.
- Get the info
Try to listen, not hear; get different perspectives. Never make decisions based only on your perspective. Involve interested parties.
- Control emotions
We can rush into unreasonable and harmful decisions when led by emotions. Control your internal barriers like arrogance, fear, blame, fatigue, being upset, and so on.
- Take your time
Do not rush. Dedicate time to evaluate the gathered info. If you don't know something, no one would doubt your skills if you say give me some time to think and get back to you. Evaluate all alternatives and determine the best solution.
- Educate yourself
Leverage the power of proven models to help you understand the situational dynamics and appropriate response types.
So what are some models to help you make the right decisions at the right time?
- The Vroom-Yetton decision model
The model formulates seven critical questions to create a decision tree enabling leaders to make the right choice. These seven questions are associated with quality, commitment, problem structure, leader's information, goal congruence, and subordinate conflict.
If Tom, David and Mary are on a forming team and have not developed the participative leadership and collaborative decision-making spirit yet, and if speed and decisiveness are required, then the Vroom-Yetton model will likely point you toward an autocratic process.
But if they have already identified how they are working together as a team, and collaboration is needed to make the right decisions then it will nudge you toward a more democratic process.
In general, a consultative or collaborative style is most appropriate when:
- You need information from others to solve a problem.
- The problem can't be easily defined.
- Team members' buy-in to the decision is essential.
- You have enough time available to manage a group decision.
An autocratic style is most appropriate when:
- You have more significant expertise on the subject than others.
- You are confident about acting alone.
- The team will accept your decision.
- There is little time available.
- The CODM model
If you want to engage Tom, David and Mary in the collaborative decision making process and make a good group decision as the problem is complex, you might find Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making model by Dr. Tim Hartnett helpful.
The model uses a seven-step process. The steps are:
- Framing the problem
Who will participate, do they have the preliminary information to start the discussion, what's the problem, and how the decisions will be made...
- Having an open discussion
Generate as many initial ideas or solutions to the problem as possible. You might use liberating structures for facilitation.
- Identifying underlying concerns
Identify key stakeholders affected by the decision, and brainstorm a list of possible concerns for each stakeholder.
- Developing proposals
Explore options, go through each idea, and stack all the proposals.
- Choosing a direction
Highlight the pros and cons of each proposal, and choose the proposal based on the decision rule agreed in step 1.
- Developing a preferred solution
Look for ways to improve the proposal, encourage group members to raise any further issues, and define steps.
Use the "decision rule" that you identified in step 1 to ensure that there is still a consensus to move forward with your decision. Ask for everyone's cooperation in implementing the final decision and making agreements.
This model helps everyone in the group feel ownership of the final decision by engaging them in developing a solution. Team members become more committed and productive as a result.
- TDODAR model
Let's say the team is under deadline pressure, and you must make a crucial decision while the clock ticks against you.
This is where the TDODAR decision-making tool can help.
It is popular in the aviation industry. Pilots often use its six sequential steps to help them solve problems in mid-flight.
With TDODAR, you follow steps in a structured manner to plot your path forward, reducing panic and decision-making paralysis.
TDODAR stands for:
Know how much time you have to make your decision. This can stop you from panicking (if you have time to make a systematic decision, and it can help you to prioritize if time is short.)
Identify what the problem is and exploring the possible causes. Gather people who can help and the data you need.
Think about what options are open to you to resolve it. It's important to consider as many different options as possible. Use brainstorming if you get blocked.
Consider each option, choose the best and most sensible one, and agree on whether to proceed.
- Act, or Assign
Break it down into "action" tasks and allocate these to the people who are most qualified to do them.
Assess that everything is going as planned and that you're seeing the results you need or expect.
- The Cynefin framework
How do you know which approach you should use in a particular situation?
And how can you avoid making the wrong decision?
The Cynefin framework is a problem-solving tool that helps you put situations into five "domains" defined by cause-and-effect relationships. This enables you to assess your situation more accurately and respond appropriately.
- Obvious Contexts – "The Domain of Best Practice"
If your team needs to organize and run the next sprint, that should be a known process to them, as they have done it before, so they can simply use the process they have used before.
You should assess the situation, categorize its type, and then base your response on best practices.
- Complicated Contexts – "The Domain of Experts"
Let's say your team has a considerable knowledge gap in the product domain, and you want to introduce new knowledge-sharing ways across groups. The problem might have several "correct" solutions, but it is still a known area.
You need to assess the situation, analyze what is known (often with the help of experts), and decide on the best response using good practice.
- Complex Contexts – "The Domain of Emergence"
New requirements are coming in a different order with different priorities from stakeholders for the team to resolve due to the market requests' rapid change. Identifying one "correct" solution or spot cause-and-effect relationships might be impossible in such "complex" situations.
Rather than trying to control the situation or insisting on a plan of action, it's often best to be patient, look for patterns, and encourage a solution to emerge.
- Chaotic Contexts – "The Domain of Rapid Response"
The company decides to merge two teams to start working on a new innovative product to compete in the market. Imagine the chaos this kind of situation can create. No relationship exists between cause and effect, so your primary goal is establishing order and stability. Crisis and emergency scenarios often fall into this domain.
You need to act decisively to address the most pressing issues, sense where there is stability and where there isn't, and then respond to move the situation from chaos to complexity.
Identifying when you're in a "disorder" situation can be extremely difficult. People here tend to rely on known and comfortable decision-making techniques since it's unclear which of the other four domains is dominant.
It's essential to gather more information in this situation so that you can move into a known domain and take appropriate action.
- The Halo Effect
It occurs when our positive impressions of people, brands, and products in one area lead us to have positive feelings in another area.
This cognitive bias leads us to often cast judgment without having a reason.
If, for example, Tom got a positive impression of Mary, and created the halo effect that she is doing great work no matter what, then David's suggestions will never be heard no matter how effective they are.
Halo effects can be minimized by using cognitive debiasing techniques, such as slowing down your reasoning process.
For example, you should develop two different perceptions of someone when you first meet them. Over time, you will be able to associate with one perception more than the other as you get to know the person.
It can also play a role at the brand level, where consumers' perceptions of a particular aspect of a company can lead them to buy more or fewer products.
Most effective leaders understand that solving problems isn't a one-size-fits-all process. By adapting their approach to changing circumstances, they make better decisions based on the situation.
There is overall one simple truth: awareness leads to better decisions.
Hope you found it useful. :)
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