Effective Decision Making for Teams

Decision making is a key function of a team. What are some factors involved in making effective team decisions?

There are advantages of making decisions as a team rather than individually. There’s a limit to how much information any one individual can process, and a limit on how many perspectives one person can see. Many decisions need full group participation to explore the situation, provide input, and make a final choice. Groups can often make better decisions than any one person operating on his or her own. What’s more, many decisions need “buy-in” from the people affected by them if they’re to be implemented successfully. It’s hard to get this buy-in if people haven’t been involved in the decision-making process.

There are several methods teams can use to make decisions depending on time and the nature of the decision. They range from a decision by the team leader after discussion, to a decision by the majority, to a decision by consensus – a collective decision arrived at through an effective and fair communication process (all team members spoke and listened, and all were valued).

How teams process information is important in making decisions. Rodney Cox, author of the Leading from Your Strengths profile explains that different team members tend to look at the same information with two very different lenses.
▪ Some members of your team will process information through the lens of optimism, always thinking the best and being ready to trust.
▪ Some members of your team will process information with realism, waiting to trust until they can validate and analyze details.
Cox says that when each team member values the way the other processes information, rather than resenting it, the team is stronger. God has placed the Optimist in the team to see a vision of what a team can accomplish together. The Realist is there to identify the steps needed for the vision to be achieved. By affirming each other’s strengths, the team draws closer together. A team needs both of these strengths to make effective decisions.

In their book Decisive, Chip and Dan Heath indicate that when researchers compared whether process or analysis was more important in producing good decisions, they found that process mattered more than analysis by a factor of six. The classic pros and cons approach is simple and familiar, however the Heaths suggest that it is flawed because of the biases we have. To avoid these biases, they recommend a decision making process called WRAP.
Widen your options – to avoid a narrow frame (unduly limiting the options we consider).
Reality-test your assumptions – to avoid a confirmation bias (seeking out information that bolsters our beliefs).
Attain distance before deciding – to avoid distracting short-term emotion (being swayed by emotions that will fade).
Prepare to be wrong – to avoid overconfidence (having too much faith in our predictions).

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni states that great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision. He suggests that the commitment and support of team members for a decision can be diminished if they feel they have to reach consensus or need to have certainty about the decision. He explains that great teams understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered. Great teams also pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct. That is because they realize it is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong – and then change direction with equal boldness – than it is to waffle.

In conclusion, it is clear that a sound process and quality relationships in the team yield the best decisions possible. For further information and additional articles on effective teams, visit EffectiveMinistryTeams.com

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