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How many times have you made a decision only for it to be revisited or overturned by a colleague? There is almost nothing more derailing than the ambiguity that comes with not knowing who “has the D.”
Senior leaders and expert colleagues want to be included early to avoid feeling like the bad guy who is forcing a new decision because some critical information or perspective was missing. Teams want to move quickly and make decisions on issues they’re deeply connected to rather than being told what to do by leaders who are a few steps removed.
To make better, faster decisions while including the right people at the right times, try using the models and methods below to clarify your decision-making processes.
THE PEOPLE CLOSEST TO THE WORK SHOULD MAKE THE DECISIONS
Research has shown that when those who are closest to the work make the decisions, the decision quality is higher and the buy-in for implementation is greater. The key is to determine what it means to be closest to the work.
Many managers and leaders worry that their team members lack the broader perspective or strategic ability that the manager brings to make sound decisions. While this may be true, it’s less a reflection on the individual team member and more a matter of aligning the decision-making authority to the proper role.
There are countless benefits to having a clear decision-making process which enables decisions to be made by the appropriate people. For example, productivity goes up because work is streamlined, employee engagement goes up because people feel a sense of ownership, trust increases which has a positive halo effect, and people learn and grow which prepares them for future success.
DETERMINE THE LEVEL OF RISK FOR A DECISION
To know which decisions should be made by which people, consider the level of risk involved in the decision. To help define the risk, use the Impact vs Changeability Matrix.
Impact: how visible and important is the impact or result of this decision? Will it be seen or felt by customers? Will it have a domino effect on other work? Is it isolated to just me or this instance?
Changeability: How easy, fast and cheap is it to change the decision after it’s been made? Is it a quick update and then things are back on track? Is there a high cost to undo it?
Although each of those dimensions are a spectrum, it can be useful to understand what each quadrant of the matrix represents.
Low Impact - High Changeability -- These are very low risk decisions. Examples include: Selecting a photo site should to get images for our website; Deciding the frequency of team meetings.
Low Impact - Low Changeability -- These decisions are slightly higher risk because they aren’t as easily undone. Yet, given they are low impact, decisions in this space are relatively safe, even if the decision or outcome it’s not ideal. Examples include: Determining food for our lunch meeting with the clients; What colors should we paint the walls in our new office; Which project management software should we use as a team.
High Impact - High Changeability -- These decisions might be widely seen or felt, but are easily changeable so if something isn't going well as a result, the ship can quickly be righted. Examples include: Experimenting with new messaging on your website; Hiring an hourly contractor; Revising the vender qualifications.
High Impact - Low Changeability -- These are the big decisions that need to be carefully considered. Examples include: Deciding to host an event; Sending a proposal to a potential client; Changing the employee health insurance coverage provider.
Decisions that fall into each of these different quadrants require you and your colleagues to engage in the decision-making process via different roles.
USE THE RAPIDS MODEL TO DETERMINE ROLES
The RAPIDS model expands how we think about who makes a decision. Although it may often feel as if there are only two ways to be involved in a decision, ( I make it or you make it, or we make it together) there are actually 6 roles. This RAPIDS model is my take on the more traditional model.
The person or group of people who are going to make a recommendation. Often it’s expected that they will present options and then their suggestion, backed up by data, research or their best thinking.
These are the people who must agree with a recommendation before it can move forward. Often times the Agree role gets conflated with the Decider role. Think of agreeing meaning that you don't need to be 100% on board, but that you’re not going to block or veto the decision. I’ll talk about how to measure agreement a little later using the fist of 5 method. But for now, if someone who must agree doesn't, they need to work with the recommenders to find a solution or elevate it to the decider.
This role sets the parameters or boundaries of the decision. What criteria need to be met, what factors are most important? Sometimes the person in a Parameters role is also the decider or an agreer, but not always. This comes up when you delegate the decision to someone else, but you’ve set the limitations on what qualifies as an acceptable decision. In essence, you’ve pre-authorized your agreement as long as it’s within the boundaries.
These are people who have something relevant and important to offer to the decision-making process, but don’t have any authority to make the decision. People who provide input can be inside or outside the team or company. It’s the job of the Recommenders to identify who should be providing input and then gathering it.
The decision-maker or makers are those who actually own the outcome of the decision. If it’s more than one person, you’ll need to determine whether you’re aiming for Concurrence, Majority or Consensus. (More on those below.)
These are the people who the decision needs to be shared with. They need to know about a decision after it’s been made because it somehow impacts them and their work.
Before you begin a project or try to make a group decision, clarifying who belongs in which role. You can use a RAPIDS template to document who falls into which category. Review this as a team to ensure alignment.
On occasion, you may disagree with the proposed groupings. When this occurs, explain why you believe the groupings need to change so that everyone can learn for the future. When you’re clear up front, you minimize the risk that a meeting will end with everyone looking around and wondering, “did we resolve this?’
DETERMINE IF THE GROUP IS SEEKING CONCURRING, MAJORITY OR CONSENSUS
When making decisions as a group, meaning there are multiple people in the Decide role, it’s important to align on how the decision will be made.
A Concurring decision is when the group works together to find a solution that everyone can agree with. It gives equal voice to each person both in terms of providing input to the decision and owning the outcome of the decision. For Concurring decisions, each person involved must feel the decision meets their baseline criteria.
A Majority decision is a simple vote where 51% (or whatever amount you agree on) determines the decision. This gives each person an equal say but ultimately ignores any dissenting positions regardless of their intensity.
A Consensus decision is reached when no one objects or vetos. People may not agree with the decision but they’re willing to go forward and support it.
One helpful way to gauge people’s position on a decision is the Fist of 5. To take a poll, you ask the group to hold up the number of fingers that corresponds to their position:
For a Concurring decision, everyone must be at least a 4. For Consensus, everyone needs to be at least a 3. This is an important distinction. If you’re making a decision as a group, clarify if the aim is Concurring or Consensus.
When you thoughtfully approach decision-making you can empower people to engage in roles that are most appropriate for them. This enables more nimble and effective decisions, which benefits everyone.
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