WHEN TEAMS CAN’T DECIDE
By Bob Frisch
The trouble with cross-functional team decision making is the process itself. To improve their teams’ decision-making processes, leaders must first acknowledge that decision making is problematic because each member has constituencies in the organization they are vying for. Leaders can improve the decision-making process by:
*Clearly articulating the outcome. When the outcome the team wants to collectively accomplish is unclear, individual members can choose options based on unspoken assumptions.
*Providing a range of options for achieving outcomes. Leaders must ensure that there is a broader range of options beyond “accept the proposed plan,” “reject the proposed plan,” and “defer the decision.”
*Testing fences and walls. When team members encounter a presumed boundary, they must take the time to determine if it is an immovable “wall” or a “fence” that can be moved.
*Surfacing preferences early. To focus a discussion, leaders must survey team members before meetings and identify their preferences.
*Stating each other’s pros and cons. Leaders should make sure both sides of every option are thoroughly voiced. This often requires assigning a devil’s advocate to make counterarguments and depersonalize the discussion.
*Devising new options that preserve the best features of existing ones. If a team has reached an impasse, it is often necessary for it to reframe its options in a way that preserves the original intent.