172 How to Make Better Team Decisions

YES! AND… #172

 How might your team make better decisions? 

Team Communication

Loomio Motif

“When we hear all voices, we make better decisions.”

Headline on Loomio website.

Four years ago we had to make a decision to buy a bigger house or extend our own. That was a hard enough decision for two people to make. How much more difficult is it to make a decision when there is a group of people involved?

Last week, I completed an Inn8 Workshop programme with twelve senior managers, using the Inn8 Model and Tools, to help them innovate. They developed two excellent new service propositions for their company and to achieve this had to decide on the opportunity to exploit, the solutions to implement and whether to proceed.

To have twelve people agree on a decision requires them to understand the situation fully (in our case, the opportunity and the solution). This requires a willingness to listen to all voices, a structure and thinking tools. How can you gain that agreement, efficiently and effectively, so that people don’t leave the meeting thinking, “That’s what we agreed, but this is what I will do.”

True, if you have enough power, you can force through decisions unilaterally. Strange though how difficult it can be to implement such decisions!


Here are some ideas and links to descriptive articles of tools that should help you to build sustainable decisions in your organisation, in the context of facilitating people to innovate. Most should help in other contexts too.

Create Understanding

Good decisions are informed decisions. Therefore, you need to create understanding amongst the decision makers (the group). This entails processing information and below is a chart I developed to consider the ways you can process it (more input welcome!):

Find it

Synthesise it Reflect on it

Recall it

Create it

Review it

Deliver it

Visualise it

Decide on it

Summarise it

Absorb it

Act on it

Share it Agree on it

Understand it

As a creative leader, your task is to facilitate that process, ideally in an interesting way (CG99)  to maintain engagement.

One way to find and create information is to have people diverge their thinking at each stage of a structured model. For example, when exploring the opportunity, you can use a variety of tools to elicit innate information (find CG77 here and CG155 here for a range of tools).

To converge their thinking at each stage have them absorb, summarise, etc.

If people have to summarise information, they have to absorb it and this increases their understanding. To this end, I have people develop Opportunity Statements (using the “5 Ws and H” tool – see CG155 above) to understand an opportunity fully, and Initial Proposition Statements and Final Proposition Statements to understand solutions.

A more entertaining (and very powerful) way to summarise is to have people define the opportunity or proposition as a (CG 66) Haiku, a poetry form that uses 17 syllables (5-7-5).

One tool I use to help people decide is (CG 134) Dot Choice. I have people review the information they have generated and choose the most important information, best idea etc, using coloured dots. Next, importantly, I have them explain their reason for choosing that information. The power is in the discussion, not the dots!

One tip, you’re rarely going to obtain perfect information when you innovate, so your people will have to tolerate ambiguity.

Listen to all Voices

Have you ever been part of a decision making forum but had little chance to put your point across? How wedded to the group decision did you feel?

Observe a group of five people discussing a challenge. The chances are that two of them are contributing very little. Make the group bigger and the problem gets larger. As much as they may like to think so (and I am one of them), the people who talk a lot do not have a monopoly on the facts or good ideas.

Therefore, to listen to all voices, you should use small teams, varying from a team of one (!) to four. Where possible, have individuals think and note take before the discussion and encourage their contribution through sharing that information. Vary the team composition regularly too.

Can you have the whole group contribute together?  Yes you can, if you facilitate it. Here is a link to CG 159 on two tools and (CG145) another and one (CG153) for larger groups.

listen to all voices internationally

I know some of you work in virtual, international teams. How to make virtual decision making easier? Recently, I had the pleasure of a Skype call with Ben Knight, a co- director of an organisation called Loomio. They have established a free, online decision making platform that allows people in organisations or virtual organisations to make decisions using their platform.

The platform allows people to “talk” things through (in writing, although you could run Skype calls alongside the tool too), build agreement and make decisions together.

It’s already been used by a number of groups of people to organise a variety of interesting gatherings. I haven’t used it yet, but will update you when I have.

You can find an explanatory video here or start using the tool here.  It doesn’t solve all decision making problems (people can talk too much in writing too), but it does make the process efficient with many stakeholders.

Small Action

There are a lot of tools suggested here. You might like to review one for use with your team or clients.

To Close

Making decisions as a group will never be easy but these ideas and tools should help you improve your group decision making.

And what of our personal decision? Did we buy or extend? After much deliberation, and a dose of procrastination, we decided to extend. Following three years of struggle with the planners to get permission and with the builders just to do the job they were paid for, we eventually moved back to our house.

During that time there were periods when we both thought we had made the wrong decision.  It’s often tough in the middle of a difficult implementation. However, the more you and other people understand why the decision was made, the easier it is to reassure yourself that it was the right one.

For this reason, record in a report the decision making process. It gives you something to look back on and may just preserve your sanity when you are up to your knees in alligators.

Have a decisive week. To talk with us how your team can make better decisions, call below. Or read our book, “Innovate to Learn, Don’t Learn to Innovate.”

John Brooker I Collaborate, Innovate, Transform.

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