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Lesser-known insights about making decisions as a team

Collaboration is essential for businesses that want to thrive. The benefits are almost endless, with companies that promote collaboration and employee engagement seeing more than double the rate of success compared to companies that don’t.

Because of this, employees are working in teams more than ever before. However, just because employees are being forced to work together, doesn’t mean they’re good at it. Personal bias can play a huge part in group decision-making and can sometimes cause conflict.

If this rings true for you and your team, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

The challenges of team decision making

Chances are, if you’re working as part of a team you will have experienced at least half of the challenges we’re about to discuss. Instead of marking off your workplace bingo card and attempting to move on, you need to see these challenges as problems that can be resolved.

Hierarchy

Should one person’s opinion be valued more than someone else’s? That’s the tricky line we have to walk in a traditional workplace.

Sure, management can draw a line in the sand and commit to a decision, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the right choice every time. Personal bias plays a large part in an individual’s decision-making process and a single person will always opt for something that seems familiar, rather than what is objectively the best course of action. Combine that with the ability to overrule anyone else on the team and you could quickly end up on the path to failure.

Group Think

Another issue that can stem from hierarchical decision-making is something called “group think”. This occurs when the team has an unconscious desire to try and fit in with the group’s overall thoughts and feelings.

Group thinking tends to make decision-making a very generic process with little thought going into the actual issue. This means less creative problem solving and more homogeneous product development as teams simply go through the motions.

Distance

We are just at the beginning of the hybrid working revolution. As some return to the office, many employees are seeing the benefits of a more flexible worklife. Obviously, this presents an obstacle when it comes to making decisions.

Even as the technology we use to collaborate and interact as a distributed team improves, it can still be difficult to come to a decision.

Lack of Shared Information

The competition aspect of business means not everyone in the company will be afforded access to the same information. Trade secrets are essential to stay ahead of the competition, but it can hamper the decision-making process as different people have different context to assess the situation.

Five tools for effective team decision-making (that not everyone knows!)

Effective decision-making isn’t something you can just make happen with a snap of your fingers. You need to create a standardized approach to decision-making that is inclusive, reduces group think mentality and still reflects the values of your company. If you’re struggling to do that, here’s a handy list of techniques and tools to help you achieve effective decision-making within your team.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is more commonly used to come up with new features or products, but it can also be a great tool for decision-making.

The main point of these brainstorming meetings is to generate as many suggestions as possible, offering a great way for free-flowing thoughts to be shared with the rest of the team. The more ideas your team comes up with, the more likely you are to find the perfect solution.

Nominal Group Technique

This unique group decision-making strategy takes brainstorming one step further by including a voting process. However, rather than just putting a dot on the board or raising your hand, the nominal group technique allows the voters to give their honest opinions as to why they have voted that way.

Delphi Technique

Even with the best tools and facilitation, the team may still struggle to come to a clear consensus. The Delphi method offers a way to narrow down the options by having the scrum master, product owner or team members with suitable expertise step in.

The Delphi technique takes all the ideas and breaks them down into a smaller number of possibilities. If the team continues to struggle with the reduced options, the designated leader will condense the choices even further until they can make a decision.

Rankings

Ranking options is one of the simplest ways to help come to a consensus, especially in a remote working situation.

This technique can be organized through email, an online communication tool, or in a brief meeting. Team members will be asked to personally rank each option which will then be compared to create an average ranking. The average ranking will give an accurate representation of the team’s overall thoughts and feelings about the issue at hand.

Pros & Cons

Another simple decision-making tool is the classic pros and cons list. Each option will be discussed as a group, with team members offering the positives and negatives for that decision. They can then be weighted up to see which option has the most pros and the least cons. The ratios of each option will make coming to a consensus much easier.

Group decision-making tools you need to be using

Dot Voting

We love dot voting! In fact, we love dot voting so much we wrote a brilliant guide (if we do say so ourselves), containing everything you need to know about this great decision-making tool.

To quickly sum it up, dot voting is exactly what you would expect from the name. The team uses sticky dots to vote on a variety of options. The option with the most dots wins. It’s simple, it’s inclusive and it can be a fun way of making decisions.

The Decision Tree

Something that is often left out of the decision-making process is a forecast of what that decision will lead to. This is where a decision tree can come into play.

A decision tree is a non-linear tool that allows you to take multiple potential decisions and run them through each step of the tree to help you decide whether it’s the right choice or not.

Planning and Priority Poker

Planning Poker is a fantastic way to estimate project length, but did you know it can also be used as a decision-making tool?

Priority Poker is a variation of Planning Poker that can be used to make decisions as a group. It’s an inclusive technique that brings together the whole team in order to come to the best conclusion.

The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 Rule states that 80% of a project’s benefits usually come from 20% of its effort. To discover where this 20% is in order to use that information to better prioritize solutions, we use something called the “Pareto Analysis”.

This process tasks the team with totaling up the number of times each individual issue is reported. It then translates these reports into a percentage and plots them onto a graph. A line is drawn at the 80% mark, showing the 20% of options that require the most attention.

The right mindset makes all the difference

Personal bias is difficult to overcome at times, but for a team to truly collaborate and come to a valuable consensus, members need to be open to new ideas. The goal should always be a unanimous decision, which involves multiple patterns of thought coming together and merging into one effective solution.

Remember, when you work as a team you need to communicate openly and collaborate rather than create conflict.

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