Mills: Making better group decisions in the workplace

Each of us has a natural approach for working our way towards a final decision on something.

Making personal decisions can be challenging and other times, it seems remarkably easy.

Each of us has a natural approach for working our way towards a final decision on something, whether or not we are consciously aware of it.

Whatever road we take to get to a final decision, for everyone it will ultimately come down to either the head or the heart winning out.

Things get really interesting in the workplace, when groups (committees for example) are required to make decisions together.

There will always be a mix of styles in the group and the challenge is to find common ground. It is worth the effort to do so because the result will be better quality decisions and more buy-in for their implementation.

Some people are just more logical when they make decisions.

Their contribution to group decisions is their natural ability to objectively analyze options. This may include a critique of past practice and/or potential flaws in a new idea. Once they have looked at the pros and cons they will decide based on what makes the most sense (to them).

In contrast other individuals will give much more weight to how a decision will affect people, both immediately and in the long term.

Equally important will be how a particular decision fits with their personal values and beliefs.

If those are violated or ignored, they may withhold support for the decision (either openly or behind the scenes).

While logical types may consider this latter approach to be overly emotional, taking the human impact into account is simply the other side of the decision-making coin.

The ideal is to find a balanced approach that draws on the strengths of both sides—the head and the heart.

If you are reading this and wondering, what is the point here? Head, heart, whatever—let’s just make a decision and move on because we have work to do.

Sure, sometimes that strategy works just fine. It doesn’t, however, work every time.

If decisions get made too quickly, there is a risk that key information will be missed or people will be negatively impacted.

That can lead to unpleasant backlash and ineffective action plans, sometimes at great cost to an organization.

Sometimes too, group decisions are not really that at all. It could be that the stronger personalities in a group always seem to get their way. When that happens regularly, the rest of the group may become apathetic about the decision or resist buying into it if they disagree or feel bullied.

It takes real skill to lead a group through a process that will generate great ideas and smart decisions. It involves facilitating open discussion, working through points of disagreement, generating viable options and getting agreement on a final decision. Making quality decisions as a group takes a lot of practice to get it right. That’s OK because trial and error can be a great teacher.

It’s the willingness to learn from our mistakes that matters.

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