Getting a Group to Make a Decision

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from an item in Executive Leadership.

Making a decision can paralyze individuals. But groups are especially susceptible to the paralysis of analysis and sometimes the fear of either failure or success.

Ava S. Butler, in Team Think, suggests that leaders can use a four-step process to move the team along in its struggle with the dilemma that it faces in making a decision from many options.

  • List every option — This may seem like an obvious step. And yet, groups can often plunge into accomplishing something — even if the accomplishments are not inappropriate or unneeded.
  • Vote on which options deserve further discussion – the democratic approach, though novel in some situations is appropriate for it provides a greater understanding of both the obvious and hidden or surprising elements. Also, this step brings about the first “buy in” by members of the group.
  • Count the votes. Any option with at least half of the votes stays in contention for the next round. This step also provides a way to discard the options that were weakest and those most difficult to fulfill when considering time, personnel, and financial constraints.
  • Continue voting until the number of discussion points becomes manageable. In this step there will be a moment when strategies and outcomes for some of the points will become so clear that implementing them will be easier and the sense of victory will begin before the initial task is commenced.
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