My team hesitates to take decisions

Dear Frieda,

Recently CompanyWise and I have led my team towards more self-organisation. The good news is that it’s starting to pay off: more in depth cooperation between the represented 'functions' with a positive impact on delivering value to our customers. 

However, there’s still one issue taking too much of my time: my team finds it difficult to make decisions, so they frequently ask me to do so. My approach is to return the question to them, however very often without success. We lose valuable time both before and after the decision, because they don’t like every decision I take. 

How can I deal with this issue? What should I do to develop their responsibility so that I really get time for the future of our organisation?

A learning leader.

Dear 'learner',

I am glad that your team recognises the benefits of multifunctional cooperation and acts accordingly! As I know you, you regularly give them a pat on the back. Well done!

Decision-making is indeed not easy as it requires mutual trust and the certainty or reassurance that what is decided is the best choice one can make - at that moment and with the information available. 

First of all, there are 3 questions to answer that can increase the effectiveness of the team:

  1. 1.          Is it clear that a decision is expected?
  2. 2.          Are the problem definition and the expectations clear?
  3. 3.      Is it clear who will take the decision?

Then a conscious and transparent consideration can be made based on 2 aspects:

  • How much time do we have? 
  • How much buy-in is needed? 
  1. 1.         Little time: in this case you take the decision yourself. You choose yes or no for input from others depending on the desired level of acceptance: the more buy-in, the more input and the more time.
  2. 2.         Specific knowledge is required: here you ask a few experts to take the decision. They alone take the decision, whether or not with input from stakeholders, again to ensure sufficient acceptance.
  3. 3.         Consensus: the team decides. Each team member can agree with the decision to varying degrees, but no one can be against it. Consensus requires that everyone is heard and that everyone looks for what is best for the whole. It must also be clear which fallback decision, 1 or 2, will be chosen in case there is no consensus.
  4. 4.         Alignment goes a little further in that every team member must be in favour of the decision. It usually takes the longest time but provides the greatest buy-in. Like consensus, alignment may require a fallback decision. 

I hope this has given you a sense of direction to take. Explaining these principles and teaching them on sociocratic decision making will uplift your organization!

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