Seven team decision-making methods

The way a team decides to decide is one of the most important decisions it makes. In the excellent book, "Why Teams Don't Work" the authors, Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley, identify seven key decision-making methods for teams.

why teams dont work

Robbins and Finley put the seven methods in context:

"Though fashion occasionally underscores one or another of these approaches, there is no right or wrong way to decide an issue. The important thing is that the team decide, in advance, what decision-making method will be used. No surprises. If members are apprised of the process, even autocratic methods acquire the consent and blessing of all".

So if a team is planning to make a major decision it should, wherever possible, discuss and agree on how the decision will be reached (e.g. using one of these 7 methods) BEFORE the decision-making discussion starts. The leader or customer of the particular meeting should introduce the decision which needs to be made and then propose a decision-making method which is then discussed and agreed.

  1. CONSENSUS: Consensus decision-making is where all team members get a chance to air their opinions and must ultimately agree on the outcomes. If any team member does not agree, discussions continue. Compromise must be used so that every team member can agree with and commit to the outcome.

  2. MAJORITY RULE: Majority decision-making is democracy in action. The team votes, majority win. Simple.

  3. MINORITY RULE: Minority decision-making usually takes the form of a subcommittee of a larger team that investigates information and makes recommendations for action.

  4. AVERAGING: Averaging is the epitome of compromise; it is how our esteemed Congress decides: team members haggle, bargain, cajole, and negotiate an intentional middle position. Usually no one is happy with the result except the moderates on the team.

  5. EXPERT: This is simple. If you don't already have someone in your team find or hire an expert, listen to what they say, and follow their recommendations.

  6. AUTHORITY RULE WITHOUT DISCUSSION: This is where there is usually no room for discussion, as with predetermined decisions handed down from higher authority Moses on Mount Sinai. Trust is often killed with this method when a team leader tries to fool team members into thinking that their opinions about the decision really can affect the decision. Team members know when a team leader is jerking them around.

  7. AUTHORITY RULE WITH DISCUSSION: This method is also known as Participative Decision Making. Under this method, those in the decision-making role make it clear from the onset that the task of decision-making is theirs. Then they join in a lively discussion of the issues; their opinions count just like other team members. When they have heard enough to make an educated decision, they cut off the discussion, make the decision, and then get back to all team members to let them know how their inputs affected their decision. Most team members feel listened to and willing to participate in another team decision using this method.

See some of my most popular articles on meetings and decision-making

All you ever learned about meetings is wrong
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Conference Calls: Twelve Golden Rules
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Collective stupidity and the madness of crowds
Delphi collective group intelligence tool: powerful and free
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The 3 ways great teams make decisions: video clip

Finally, check-out for my portfolio of team-based business simulation games which allow teams to try out all of these different decision-making methods under pressure of competition, unexpected situations and time.

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Hi Ken

I haven't read this book but the list seems familiar. From experience, it is important for a team to know which method is used, but each can be used expertly or clumsily.

I've been chatting on the Chief Happiness Office blog and rallying around a theme that the important process is establishment of meaning.

The intertwining of narratives seems the critical skill, at least as I understand things now. I am enjoying watching Obama at the moment who is good at this. Houston we have lift off, etc.

The more people who find their meaning in the final narrative, the more motivated people will be.

Hard work if you can get it! Thanks for the post.

Thanks Jo - I guess without shared meaning then whatever is done - no matter how well done - probably does not matter. I suppose also its a sign of a leader the extent to which they can build a community around a shared meaning. Somebody once said to me "making money together" is never a great rallying call. Thanks for the post - have you a link to your conversation on the shared meaning topic. Ken

The meaning of working as a team is to iron up issues that you feel is not going the way wanted for the success of the project.
Off course after realizing what has gone wrong, this will definitely involve the whole team to come together to analyse the root course and thereafter, make decissions on how to make it right. By this l mean proper team collaboration and agreement by all the team members will never fail your objective.

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