Five Ways that Decisions are Made

There are 5 ways in which a particular action is decided upon. This is pretty obvious stuff, but as with many obvious things, it sometimes bears repeating. And I also think it helps to recognize how things get done around you and perhaps to examine how you make your own decisions.

1. by Individual

This is an easy one. With such situations, a single person makes the call. We've all been in the not so ideal circumstance where a decision is made by an individual that we would've rather had some input it. Get used to it. It happens all the time.

However, in ideal circumstances, the other people who are also involved in the situation agree beforehand that the individual will make the decision and also agree to abide by it. These types of decisions are best made by an individual that is closest to the action and/or has the skill, interest or experience to make the decision. They are also often made when there is a sense of urgency.

2. by Minority

I'd say this is the most common type of decision made by teams. Typically, a few of those involved in a situation meet to consider the matter at hand and then make a decision. This decision is considered to be binding for all other team members. Similar to individual decisions, minority decisions are best made by people closest to the action. There is inherent safety in making decisions this way, but it can be quite time consuming.

3. by Majority

More than half of those involved in the situation make a decision, and it is binding for all concerned. Majority decisions are most
effective when there are too many people to reach consensus on an issue, or the issue is too small to merit much deliberation. Voting is a common form of majority decision making.

4. by Compromise

When the situation is important, seeking a compromise is a typical response. That is, an entire group considers a problem on the basis of reason and discussion, with each member expressing a view. After exploring all options, team members agree on an option they can all live with. The “live with” part is critical here. Compromise shouldn't be confused with consensus which is both more effective and harder to achieve. Also, it isn't uncommon for those that agreed in public to a particular course of action to quietly disagree behind closed doors.

5. by Consensus

A 100% commitment is needed for decisions of critical importance. Depending on where you are on the totem pole in your organization you may be involved with many such decisions or, as is more likely, none at all. Each person fully agrees to the action to be taken, and everyone concerned fully subscribes to the decision made. It requires a great deal of information and time to reach consensus.

Note: This post was inspired by web-based management-training materials research by Dan Michel of IBM.

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