Reason 8

20151104_145419They Take Months to Make a Decision That Could Have Been Made in Minutes

This fate awaits any team that is bound and determined to apply every team tool and toy ever invented. Fresh from the latest team training session they brainstorm, fishbone, mindmap, vision, right brain activate, neuroscience themselves, SOP, input/output, listen with sensitivity, scenario plan, survey, prioritize and analyze everything in sight. They read the latest guru’s book on team Zen, rise to higher levels of consciousness and are at one with the universe. Their karma is amazing. All this to decide what soap dispensers to install in the new bathrooms. By the end of it you are ready to pull out your hair and scream for someone, anyone to just make a decision, any decision. Admit it, you’ve been part of this haven’t you? We all have.

The obvious question that is too often missed in the enthusiasm of using new techniques (or imposed techniques) is ‘How important is this decision?’ For the answer, the team needs to:

  • Consider the big picture context of the decision,
  • While at the same time focusing on solutions.

There is a direct, positive correlation to the importance of the decision and the amount of time needed to reach that decision. The more important the decision, the longer the time required, even though many teams do just the opposite. If your team can determine objectively how much time and energy the decision warrants, your decision making process will speed up considerably.

One particularly time consuming activity to be wary of in the decision making process is the survey. Sure, survey’s can be of value but way too often they are poorly done and are more of an excuse to avoid making a decision. Red warning lights should go off as soon as you hear the word survey. Surveys might be valuable to determine what issues are out there but are typically much less valuable in determining what to do about those issues. That’s why we have teams; to figure out what to do about those issues.

Basically teams have two general areas of value.

  1. They often make better decisions than a single individual (especially if you address all these reasons to hate teams!).
  2. They help in the implementation of decisions.

The second point is often of greatest value and this should not be ignored when determining the importance of the team’s decisions. Most teams take far too long figuring out WHAT to do and not nearly enough time figuring out HOW to do it. Interestingly, most of the team tools out there deal with figuring out the WHAT rather than the HOW. But that’s ok, because a lot of the work on the HOW will depend on the team’s environment, context and people, so it’s hard to have a set process for the HOW. It’s up to each team to invent the HOW that best suits their own environment.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. What’s the most overused team tool?
  2. What’s the most effective team tool you have used?
  3. What’s your favorite book on teams (you can include this one!)?
  4. How do you know when you need some tools or when they are being overused?

2 Responses

  1. I have to admit that I personally find myself focused more on the HOW than on the WHAT in these situations due to my strong preference for quick action. In recent years, I have found that I have to really force myself to think about the WHAT before I get to the HOW. In the past, when I have rushed to the HOW, I find that the decision either may not be the best decision in the long run or not everyone really agrees that it is the best decision…they just went along with it because they could tell I was anxious to get to action đŸ™‚ I do agree, however, with your comments that there must be a nice balance between the focus on the WHAT and the HOW. I find it difficult (obviously) to sit through a meeting that focuses for hours on end at the WHAT. So…in order to address the WHAT in a way that hopefully gets us to the HOW quicker, I have found the DeBono Six Thinking Hats technique to be quite useful. I have just recently read the book, but have to admit I haven’t been able to put it into practice too much at this point. However, I think with this kind of technique where you can identify when during a meeting you are going to say vent about the decision to be made, and then innovate about the decision to be made, it brings in more structure to the decision making process and in my mind will get you to the HOW quicker.

    • Awesome to see your comment Brittany! And also interesting to hear your personal affinity toward the HOW of decisions, although in some ways it sounds like your affinity to the how is as much about getting the what done and over with as it might be about the actual how of things!

      Nevertheless, I do find lots of teams over focus on the WHAT and lose the overall balance between the two. I imagine you would be able to help teams find the needed balance!

      As you note, DeBono’s work can be very useful helping teams find a balance here and also to help surface, through the various hats, things that a team might not normally focus on.

      I’m going to connect with you off line about this as well….

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