Making decisions together: A guide

Many decisions in the team are made ad-hoc, with a quick glance, without much fuss - fortunately. But often it takes a little more. And good advice.

If, after the 11:00 a.m. meeting, you can decide very quickly, with eye contact and a nod, whose turn it is to get lunch, then you are doing everything right. You don't need a management process to make this decision.

But if you want to decide whether you want to increase the prices for your product - or whether the travel expense regulation of the 100 employees is still up to date, then a process has to be set in motion.

A (major) decision in the group is not a single moment, but a period of thought with several moments in which decisions are made. Deciding means following a route with different sections and taking the right turn at intersections if possible. A distinction is made between divergent and convergent sections.

As a model, you can imagine the interaction of these phases in the decision-making process as a fish-like shape.

The Decision Fish

In divergent(opening) phases, ideas are sought, several solutions are developed and finally options are defined. The more exchange, ideas and diversity, the better. 

In convergent(striving together) phases, options are selected, discussed, reduced, defined, and condensed toward decisions. 

Decision-making often goes through these phases several times - especially when dealing with extensive and complex issues and challenges.

1 Define‍

Of course, a healthy sense of proportion is required in the definition phase: The menu planning for the joint team dinner has a different scope than the upcoming enlargement of the team. The selection of a suitable image for the presentation has a different urgency than the formulation of the strategy paper.
Here are the most important three questions for the definition:

  1. What is the issue? (Problem, tension or challenge, with current state of knowledge)
  2. How much time do we take to make this decision? Who should be there and when? (Resources) 
  3. How do we decide?(Methods)

You can use Agree already for this first step: Create a decision definition and release it with the decision type "Approval" or "YES/NO". This way, your team already knows that a decision is being sought and that more may probably be contributed to this project. In addition, the question and comment function of the app can be used to post suggested solutions and activate the formation of opinions in the team.‍

2 Develop‍

Now the task is to identify suitable solutions based on the definition. It is a divergent phase and here the rule of thumb is: the more the better! The more input, the better. The more people involved, the better. The more diverse the opinions and ideas, the better. This deliberation can take place in physical or remote meetings, breakouts and workshops, involve people across teams or include external expertise.

Encourage group members to share their thoughts and opinions openly and honestly. In this way, you can ensure that many perspectives are considered and that every voice is heard. 

Tip: Do not decide anything at this stage.

3 Evaluate‍

Develop clearly articulated options from the discussions and ideas of the development phase. Prepare the options so that they are comparable. Based on the decision definition, let the right people help decide which option is best. It is a convergent phase.

It may well be that you want to have "outsiders" involved in decision-making for certain situations: these can be people from your organization or company, but also the client. 

In smaller, less complex decision situations you are already good to go after this step: The implementation of the decision can start! In larger, more comprehensive decision processes, the selection phase is often first a ranking and a reduction of (too) many possibilities. In this case, a preliminary decision is made on which option to work out before a final approval is given by the team.

Use Agree for this step: Use the decision types "Ranking" or "Voting" to determine the most reasonable option from several options.

4 Decide‍

You have received a selection of options from the team. In smaller, less complex decision situations, you are already good to go after this step: The implementation of the decision can start!

For more complex and larger decisions, the selected option is now prepared: More information and additional expertise is obtained to examine the option in more detail. This is a divergent phase, but with tight guardrails. 

The elaborated solution is now presented (again) to the co-decision-makers. They can make the final decision or, if necessary, raise objections again. This is a convergent phase.

Use Agree for this last step of the decision process: choose "Approval", "YES/NO" or Consent as decision type.

Published in
June 2023