When I talk about collective decision making, the most common question I hear is, “Oh, those endless discussions must be very time consuming, right?”. People often think that collaborative decision making is the same as an endless (and pointless) discussion club. As a facilitator and team member, I have seen that it can be much more efficient and effective. So what needs to happen for the team to make decisions together productively and efficiently?
It is highly recommended to have a facilitator who not only supports the decision-making process, but also selects or advises on the right decision-making method for the task at hand, depending on the nature of the decision, the context, the size of the group, and the end goal. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, whether it is consensus or consent, a sociocratic circle or NGT. The facilitator not only chooses the right method, but also ensures that the process is clear, that the discussion is moving in the right direction, and that everyone is heard.
Although it may seem obvious, you cannot get anywhere without a certain level of trust.
When I think of trust in a team, I often think of it like a river current. It makes paddling easier, and the likelihood of going in the same direction increases dramatically. In addition, many studies show that teams with high trust are much better at making decisions, solving problems and managing conflict. Finally, trust promotes open dialogue, which is critical to achieving the above goals.
If you prefer an equation to a metaphor, here’s one from David H. Maister that I find most compelling: trust is defined as (credibility x reliability x intimacy ) divided by self-orientation, where:
- credibility refers to recognised knowledge and competence
- reliability refers to perceived consistency and dependability
- intimacy is the degree of emotional connection and relationship
- self-orientation is a person’s tendency to put his or her own needs and desires above those of others
70% of learning is through experience, and this is also true for decision making. Once the team has learned to make decisions in a deliberate, culturally appropriate way, the process becomes extremely effective because: a) the techniques no longer need to be explained; b) the methods, once accepted, become part of the team culture and facilitation can become a shared task; and c) the experience and knowledge of the process makes the team confident in the effectiveness of the approach and the decisions themselves.