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How to Make Faster Group Decisions

For some teams, group decision-making can be hard. Some might call it painful, time-consuming, and ineffective. The Public Speaker puts an end to decision derision. Learn the 3 steps to make faster group decisions at work.

By
Lisa B. Marshall,
April 12, 2012
Episode #150

You’re at a work meeting and it’s that time again, time to make a group decision. A shudder goes around the conference table like a wave in a sports stadium. However, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to make good group decisions more quickly.

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I often hear the word synergy as part of corporate speak. It is supposed to mean that when people are brought together to solve problems or make decisions, the team collectively will make better or more effective decisions. However, often, that’s just not the case. For some, group decision-making can be hard. In fact, some might call it painful, time-consuming, and ineffective. Today, I’ll finally put an end to decision derision. I’ll give you 3 steps to faster and easier group decisions.

Step #1: Define the Decision and Relevant Information

The first step is to define the decision. This may be more difficult than you think and is definitely an important step toward better, faster, and easier group decisions. Explicitly define: What you are trying to accomplish? What criteria is important? And what are some possible limitations?

For example, if your company is deciding whether to conduct a customer survey, this particular decision has nothing to do with what types of questions may or may not be included in the survey and it has nothing to do with whether or not you have the resources to develop and conduct the survey.

The question at this point is simple: Should we conduct a customer survey?

Although the question and possible answers are simple, the process to reach a consensus may be quite complex. First, all relevant information must be provided. To continue the customer survey example, each person must understand what a customer survey is, what it is used for, and why it might be beneficial for your company to conduct one. If a customer survey would be especially helpful to the company at this particular time, everyone needs to be aware of that. If there are consequences (e.g. resources won’t be able to work on other important projects) then everyone needs to be made aware of this as well.

Step #2: Identify Alternatives and Set a Deadline

The next step is to identify alternatives and set a specific deadline for the decision. Compare the alternatives to your objectives and criteria that you set in Step #1. Depending on the importance of the decision, you may even consider setting up a scoring process. Be sure to review the limitations and risks of each alternative. You may end up having to throw out all the options and start again.

In the absence of a deadline, the process lacks an endpoint so it may slow down or even come to a complete halt.

If the decision-making process will occur over days, weeks, or even months, it can be very helpful to create interim deadlines. These allow you to monitor the progress and determine whether you are moving closer to the ultimate goal.  

For example, if your team is deciding whether your company should open a second office in another city, set interim deadlines to deliver a cost-benefit analysis on the issue, a report about the financial aspects associated with the expansion, and a determination about whether there are any legal matters that might pose obstacles along the way.

Monitor the progress to steer clear of last-minute panic and chaos. These mini goals or interim deadlines are useless if you ignore them and suddenly realize a week before the project is to be finalized that no one has done anything.

Step #3: Keep the Team Focused

Why do groups often get mired in the decision-making process? One reason is that people in groups tend to get sidetracked. If a decision is being made during a meeting, people may go off on tangents or start chatting about related topics in small groups. A good agenda can help combat this because it outlines what the group must accomplish before the meeting is adjourned.

If the decision is to be made over a longer period of time, various groups may work independently on assignments. Just as during a meeting, people can get sidetracked and lose sight of what they are working toward. Frequent check-ins can help them remain focused and remind them of the common goal.

At some point during the process, whether it’s a one-hour meeting to decide where the company picnic should be held or a one-year internal analysis to determine whether the company should expand globally, people may lose focus. It is essential to have a strategy in place so the group can quickly and easily get back on track.

This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker, passionate about communication, your success is my business.

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