Dr. Egon Spengler: I have a radical idea. The door swings both ways, we could reverse the particle flow through the gate.
Dr. Peter Venkman: How?
Dr. Egon Spengler: [hesitates] We’ll cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: ‘Scuse me Egon? You said crossing the streams was bad!
Dr Ray Stantz: Cross the streams…
Dr. Peter Venkman: You’re gonna endanger us, you’re gonna endanger our client – the nice lady, who paid us in advance, before she became a dog…
Dr. Egon Spengler: Not necessarily. There’s definitely a *very slim* chance we’ll survive.
[pause while they consider this]
Dr. Peter Venkman: [slaps Ray] I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! LET’S DO IT!
You have gotten together with your team, presented and discussed all the options. Now you need to decide what to do. There are basically for ways to go about this:
- Authoritatively – the person in charge makes a decision.
- Consultatively – everyone contributes and then the person in charge makes the decision.
- Democratically – the options are presented and everyone votes. The most votes wins.
- By consensus – everyone discusses the issue and provides input. The decision is something that everyone agrees on.
I am going to focus on consensus in this post. The other three decision-making processes have their place but my preference in a project settings is to use consensus as much as possible. The advantage of making decisions by consensus have two big advantages:
- Everyone’s opinion and as much data as possible are included in the decision
- Everyone has ownership of that decision.
But there can be disadvantages to decision-making by consensus as well, including the fact that it takes more time to come to consensus, and it may be difficult or even impossible to reach consensus on all issues. But there are strategies to mitigate the disadvantages while maximizing your damages.
First, as the team leader or project manager, you need to make sure everyone is included in the process. I have touched on that in previous posts but it is incumbent on you to make sure there is the free and open exchange of ideas.
Second, if you cannot reach consensus on everything, try to reach consensus on smaller things and chip away at the big goals. If you can reach consensus on 75% of your goals than finalize them and you can focus on the last 25%. It is OK to arrive at solutions in pieces.
Third, you can establish a fallback position that is either temporary or permanent, but it is an agreed-to outcome in the case that members of the group cannot come to full consensus.
Fourth, you can establish ground rules, like if the group cannot make a decision in a certain amount of time the person with authority will make the decision based on the group’s input. That would be falling back to the consultation model.
Any and all of these are acceptable alternatives give in the situation.
Decision-making by consensus is not for all situations. For relatively minor issues, like what order to discuss things, or table an issue for later, then a democratic method is fine, because the outcomes of those decisions are not that important and you want to move along.
There are situations also where the consultation or authoritative model makes more sense than as well. The executive in charge of a project often has more information often has a different scope of information involving a the areas of the business which may have to be taken into account without time to discuss them. In that case a consultation of model would be of great benefit.
But in terms of getting the decision right, that consensus model is almost always your best bet. I have done the math in a previous post and it is very clear. So in the absence of a compelling reason to make a decision by some other method, strive for consensus. You’ll have a happy, engaged team and the best odds of doing the right thing.