Decision Making For Dummies
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You can have the best team in the world working collaboratively, but if you or your colleagues are not committed to turning the decision into a reality, you may just as well go to your favorite coffee shop, order copious amounts of caffeine, and buzz out. Commitment can be undermined by the following:

  • Poorly thought-out plans or decisions: Plenty of half-baked ideas end up being implemented without being thought through.

  • Task fatigue: When a company piles one action on top of another, task fatigue results. Employees appear uncommitted when actually they're exhausted.

  • The scope or viability of the proposed task: The overwhelming size of what must be implemented or how workable the solution or plan is perceived to be are other factors that can cause commitment to waver.

  • Lack of emotional engagement: Lack of commitment for moving forward on a decision may indicate that team members are not emotionally engaged. Emotional engagement inspires employees to contribute to something that holds meaning. Intellectually, the task can get accomplished. But when efforts are half-hearted, initiatives that are more mechanical than meaningful won't gain support, despite the best intentions of employees.

Without staff commitment to the decision or change, the decision won't be implemented. Wheels will spin. Determining the commitment level for you and your team members is imperative. You must assess the commitment level early on and monitor it as the decision is implemented. Commitment isn't something you force. It's inspired through the merits of what you're doing and how it contributes to a higher purpose.

Team and organizational dynamics

Team and organizational dynamics refers to the quality of working relationships between individuals and teams. It embraces how conflict is used, the degree of trust, and the level of support between coworkers. When observing dynamics, remember this key principle: Energy flows where attention goes.

A lot of attention going into turf wars and unhealthy competition works against collaboration and implementation. Conversely, when the collective attention is focused on achieving the goal, a better chance exists that all parties will work together to deliver on achieving performance goals.

To observe organizational and team dynamics, consider the following:

  • Is information openly and honestly exchanged? If the answer is yes, then decision-makers have more trustworthy information available than they do when the answer is no. If the answer is no, information is likely used to serve personal interest. The effect is a "watch your back" ethic that undermines making and implementing decisions.

  • Are resources hoarded or shared? In workplaces where performance appraisals reward personal effort, there is little incentive for one team to help another out unless enough goodwill exists to overcome that barrier. The degree to which employees and business units are encouraged to share resources to meet company goals reflects how highly decision-makers value team effort over controlling the way things get done at a personal performance level.

Where your coworkers can contribute

Uncover the wisdom and experience from other members of your team by finding out what they've learned, good or bad. By exploring the following, you can flag potential pitfalls early on in the decision-making process:

  • Whether coworkers have worked on similar issues before or under the same conditions: If so, find out what worked and what didn't, and why.

  • Whether coworkers are willing to support you, either actively or as a sounding board: Active supporters are those who actively participate in the decision-making and implementation, while sounding boards are those who, although they are not actively involved in your project, can offer useful guidance and advice.

What those higher up in the chain of command will do

Many good decisions have been waylaid by lack of support or political maneuvering on the part of those higher in the chain of command. Therefore, if your decision is affected by (or must rely on) the actions or support of people higher up in your organization, you need to gauge the degree of support you can expect. As you try to uncover this information, pay attention to the following:

  • The organization's internal politics: If infighting, deceit, and manipulation are used to increase political status internally, you need to know upfront so that you can be better prepared for initiatives to be hijacked for personal gain or dismantled if the initiative has risk of failure.

    Highly charged political environments are characterized by power brokers watching to see which horse will take them to the finish line fastest and switching positions at a moment's notice. In such environments, you can expect people to say one thing and do another. Therefore, keep your options open for longer before you commit to one course or another.

  • The management style: Decision-making environments that rely heavily on a command-and-control style of management prevail even in small to medium-sized companies. A command-and-control environment, in most circumstances, relies on authority to dictate decision-making. You can expect your initiatives to be commandeered by your superiors and decisions to go through a lengthy process.

    Dealing with a command-and-control environment, characteristic of a more traditional approach to management, is more a matter of learning how to navigate the interpersonal relationships.

    Conversely, when those higher up in the chain of command see themselves not as commanders but as peers and part of the collaboration, you can breathe easier. The values underpinning collaboration create a more trustworthy decision-making environment. You'll be able to better gauge and trust the degree of support your decision is likely to garner and know you can rely on securing the resources you need.

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Dawna Jones generates imaginative insights and applies 25 years experience in helping businesses and organizations make bold decisions. She co-designs the future of organizations, transforming them from "business-as-usual" to inclusive cultures of prosperity.

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