Thanks to Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley authors of The Accidental Leader from “The Right (and Wrong) Way to Make Up Your Mind.”
Here are seven basic decision-making methods.
Decide which one you want to use for your group and tell them what it is in advance so they’ll be no surprises.
- Car pool or consensus decision-making solicits everyone’s input and gets everyone’s OK. By getting every idea on the table, you address all opposition. Consensus usually involves a lot of compromise and, in the end, a mediocre result.
- Buy-in or authority rule with discussion. The leader makes the decision after consulting with team members and getting their opinions. Buy-in provides clarity and accountability, and everyone feels they had their say.
- Top-down or authority rule without discussion. The leader just says, “this is how it’s going to be.” The dictatorial approach works well with administrative tasks and less well with political ones.
- Vote-up or majority rule is democracy — a simple vote in which the majority wins and the minority loses. It’s quick, transparent and often quells dissent. Vote-up works when there’s no time for a full-consensus process or when the decision isn’t so important that consensus is necessary and 100 percent member concurrence isn’t essential for successful implementation.
- In-group or majority rule forms a small subset of the larger group to gather information and make a recommendation for a decision back to the larger group. By not addressing everyone’s concerns, even those members with less expertise, the in-group approach can let important issues go unaddressed.
- Center-strip also known as averaging is consensus gone wild. You see the spectrum of ideas and take the middle of the spectrum. Usually no one is happy with the result, not even the moderates in the group. This method reminds me of what a former creative director of mine used to say, “the middle of the road is a great place to get run over.”
- Outside-rule or decision-making by consultancy or “expertocracy.” This is where you hire someone from the outside to tell you what you already know and charge you for their advice.
If your team is in charge of implementation, then rely on one of the more autocratic methods. They save time and promote clarity.
However, if your team is involved in policy formation or any “political” consideration, slow down and ensure everyone’s concerns are heard and addressed.
What’s most important is that everyone in the group understands, in advance, what decision-making method will be used. The worst thing a leader can do is spring a surprise on the group.
Which decision-making method do you and your group default to most often?