Making good decisions is considered a crucial centerpiece of excellent leadership. Just as productivity advice can vary with situations, so can decision-making. We are often tempted to include our entire team so we can tap the full variety of the technical knowledge and make everyone feel like their expertise is appreciated. But is that efficient? Getting consensus is time-consuming and often unnecessary.
When the nature of the problem is highly unstructured and unlikely to recur, the team leader may want to make the decision. For a one-time-only complex decision, going solo is more convenient and time efficient – especially if the information and resources needed to make a decision already reside in memory. In the case that the issue may pop up again, however, it will be more beneficial for your team in the long-term to delegate – it can act as a learning opportunity for someone else.
What if the problem is unstructured, unlikely to recur, needs to be made by the team leader, yet the team leader does not have the sufficient resources (knowledge, time, ability, etc.) to make the decision quickly and easily? You can always delegate part of the decision-making process. Task a team member with finding the necessary information relevant to making the decision, ask them to make recommendations, and then make the decision solo.
When proper implementation of the solution depends on the acceptance of the decision by all team members, it would not be a wise move to make the decision without input. The next three options are group decision making styles that do not require getting consensus.
Meet with each team member separately, explain the issue, and ask for input individually. Then make the decision alone. This is a good option when you want to tap the unique opinions of team members and you suspect they might be unwilling to dissent in front of others.
Meet with all of the team members as a group. Explain the issue to everyone simultaneously, and ask for input during the meeting. Then make the decision alone. This is a great option when team members are likely to build ideas off each other – creating a synergistic/brainstorming environment.
Meet with the team members as a group. Explain the issue, ask for input, debate both sides of the issue, and then do a majority vote. This is ideal when there are only two options to choose from.
Have you used any of these techniques? What has worked well for you? Are there other alternatives to consensus decision-making?