HOW TO DECIDE WHOM TO INVOLVE IN A DECISION
Whom to involve, and how, is your very first decision as a decision-maker. The number of people you can involve ranges from none, in which you make a decision single-handedly, to total, in which you lead a whole team searching for consensus.
The argument for making collective decisions are powerful. The saying that “Two (or more) heads are better than one” is a good one. Although this can be countered by the maxim that “too many cooks spoil the broth”. However, in most cases, advisers supply expertise and experience – so that there is a clear for other “cooks”.
For example, a computing decision will need an IT expert. Ideally, this specific expertise would be supplemented by the experience of a person who had dealt with similar issues. However, the decision-maker having weighed the advice of experts and experienced hands, mus then use authority to ensure that the final decision is seen through.
A manager wanted to remove a production bottleneck by reorganizing one of her departments. After thinking extensively of whom to involve in the process, she decided to call on outside consultants because of their expertise in the department’s processes. She also asked the advice of her colleagues John, who had several years’ experience of working in the department, and Becky who had led change teams successfully in the past and had considerable authority.
She also involved her own team members in a planning group to win cooperation. The advice and input of John, with his in-depth view of the project, Becky’s experience in planning the project, the contribution of the staff, plus the technical experience of the outside consultants, mean that the reorganization was successfully completed.
If you do not have total autonomy to proceed, make sure you consult the relevant authority – not just for the ultimate blessing, but also for their input. It is always in your interest to have your plans vetted by any senior colleagues whose judgment and experience you trust.
Even if you do not need to have your decision sanctioned by your managers, remember that they are much more likely to lend valuable cooperation if they have been kept fully informed all the way along the decision path.
INVOLVING OTHERS IN DECISION-MAKING
WHEN TO USE THEM
These decisions are taken by senior management and are low on consultation.
|Telling: Manager takes unilateral decision without consultation.|
Selling: Manager takes a decision, but others may question the validity.
Presenting: Staff is allowed to hear the progress of discussions.
|When there is a tight deadline, or in any emergency situation.|
When a hard sell is needed because consensus is impossible.
When a manager has strong views but wishes to inform colleagues.
Although the final decision is taken by the manager, the staff are consulted for their input.
|Suggesting: Manager puts forward choices for discussion and may be willing to change opinion|
Consulting: Colleagues’ views are sought before any input from above, but the manager has the final say.
|When the views of colleagues can contribute useful options for discussion and decision.|
When a decision needs specialist input or other contributions that a manager needs to have.
Decision-making is a democratic process, with all staff being invited to participate.
|Asking: Manager establishes parameters to be discussed, but the responsibility rests with the team.|
Participating: All staff come together to discuss options and make decisions by consensus.
|When the best decision requires the input and full involvement of the team.|
When commitment to the decision is of vital importance to the success of the plan.
Consulting with team members can improve the effectiveness of a decision in two ways – firstly, the people who you approach for their opinions should be able to make a real contribution to the process.
Secondly, the chances of implementing your decision successfully are always increased if people know what they are doing and why: most people operate better if they feel totally involved in a project. Take care to demonstrate that the contributions and opinions you sought have been into account in your final decision.
Consulting others, in some cases, can have more disadvantages than advantages. Firstly, there is the time factor; the major people consulted, however qualified they are to comment, the longer the decision-making process will take. And the greater the number of people approached, the higher your chances of being confused by contradictory opinions.
Secondly, you may lose your control over the entire process if too many people become involved. To avoid these pitfalls, make sure you keep a tight grip on the proceedings and limit the number of opinions you seek to those that are really essential. When you involve others in your decision, explain the whole picture. Telling a half story can lead very quickly to rumours, with a subsequent drop in staff morale. Token or partial consultation does not succeed.
Listening To Others
The manager who reverses a decision after hearing the contrary views of a meeting is strong rather than weak. Positive listening means, not just hearing the words, but understanding their significance and recognizing their sense. You do not want the unthinking endorsement of your decisions.
Encourage those you consult to speak their minds and ensure that you have a representative spread of interests perceptions. Advocate a background of continuous consultation, using every device you can, from team meetings to suggestion boxes. This will enable you to make decisions based on a real understanding of the attitudes of others.
Remember that consulting others does not necessarily mean inviting endless debate. Seek views and information, and listen to what is said, but decide on the best course of action yourself.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Am I presenting my own view in the most rational, understandable way?
Am I changing my mind because of the fluent argument, or is there a sound reason?
Have I ever ignored attempts to consult with me about a problem before?
Do I give colleagues the chance to express their own opinions?
Involve as many people as you need in making a decision.
Ask an objective critic to look at your decision and give you feedback.
Be prepared to accept people’s advice if you have asked for it.
Encourage people to participate in decisions to get better results.