Work Culture

Collaborative Decision Making in the Workplace – 101

By on December 5, 2018

Collaborative Decision Making in the Workplace – 101

Implementing a collaborative decision-making approach in an organization isn’t easy. With freedom to perfect their work, employees see collaboration without the constraint of an unrealistic deadline and contribute positively towards the greater good. 

What is collaborative decision making?

Collaborative decision making is at the root of most successful teams in the world. But what is collaborative decision making, really? We can define it as the outcome when a team of individuals reaches a consensus. This consensus should be on the best possible solution, chosen from within a set of few proposed. This sounds time consuming already, doesn’t it? While that may be the case, it defends against a lot of pitfalls of other decision making processes such as cognitive bias, trial & error etc., in addition to promoting teamwork. Collaborative approach works best where work culture supports a high level of engagement. Freedom to creatively solve problems also encourages seamless collaboration. 

What are the principles of collaborative decision making?

Choose a facilitator

Most initiatives need a facilitator or a lead to achieve their goals and objectives. Collaborative decision making is no different. Without committed leadership, the process is at risk of failure. 

This facilitator handles things such as:

  • gaining buy-in and commitment from key stakeholders
  • creating definitions of success & failure for the initiative 
  • aligning the initiative with other goals
  • fostering teamwork throughout the entire process 

Facilitator will also ensure that the group stays focused on the problem at hand. And coaches them through the solution identification and selection process. All this via a series of small, manageable steps.

Identify and scope the problem

Without clear identification of the problem at hand, the group can fall off course.  This can lead to discouragement and confusion. First step to success is ensuring that each user is able to articulate the problem clearly.

To understand the problem, the management must first understand what cannot be changed. If non-negotiable regulatory policies exist, consider that in the scope of the problem. Of course, you cannot change the regulations or violate them.

Next, list the unknowns that users face while surrounding the problem. And track what information is yet to be uncovered.  This information can aid in finding proposed solutions. Also, take note of any future events that may impact the management. This might fall outside of the current scope of your solution. But will prove important for future iterations of the decision making process. 

Build a success model and uncover alternative solutions

Rather than dwelling on negative impacts of the current problem, decision makers should focus on finding a solution. It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of pessimism when the focus is entirely negative. Instead, focus on what is contributing to the problem. It will allow members of the systems to provide their unique perspectives. And reveal more ideas for alternative software solutions in the next phase of the process.

Capture company values, monetary impact, corporate objectives and potential tradeoffs of all models. Discuss each alternative in that context. This will help you narrow down multiple, complex solutions in the final selection process.

Collect data

It is time to collect data to support proposed solutions. Problem is clearly defined for individual systems in the first step & then the business impact is deliberated upon.

One mistake that many engineering teams make is to collect any and all data points. Whether they’re directly related to the problem at hand or not. Because too much extraneous data only clouds the team’s ability to stay away from conflict. 

Team should weigh value of the collected data against the ability to support the predefined measures of success. Include only data that is critical to collaborative decision-making in the evaluation and selection process. The facilitator can assist the team in focusing on the effort to support the process goal.

How do groups influence decision-making?

Having clarity on the dynamics of collaborative decision making ensures that nobody is unduly affecting the process. Also, since the purpose of collaborative decision making process is to ensure all stakeholders have correct, viable and actionable information at their disposal. Using this method, the decisions taken will reflect the good of the organization as a whole and not the realities of one person.

How does collaboration affect decision making?

Collaboration can identify avenues that weren’t previously known. Sales and Customer Success teams can identify issues that are bothering the individual members of their team and find out a common solution that reduces the burden in two departments instead of one. On the other hand, collaboration can make decision makers unsure of their next steps – it is vital to have communication.

What makes a good collaborative decision maker?

When the group is finally ready to choose the best solution to the problem., the facilitator can assist team members in organising their unique thoughts about each proposed solution. They can use tools such as the decision matrix.

There is a possibility of not reaching an immediate consensus on features. In that case it may also help to complete a cost-benefit analysis. This will aid the team to decide on the solution that best maps to business objectives.

Why is collaborative decision making important?

Selecting a solution doesn’t mean that the work is done. Without executing the proposed solution, the problem will remain unsolved. 

An effective implementation plan considers the goal and other factors, and works backward to create actionable steps to set the solution into motion. 

Your team shouldn’t be alarmed if they uncover previously unforeseen barriers as they build the implementation plan. This is a common occurrence in the implementation phase. Address any potential issues with the same collaborative decision making process one would follow for features.

Organizations of all types and sizes stand to benefit from a collaborative approach to decision making that consults all factors from a knowledge repository. In today’s competitive marketplace, engineering teams must approach problem-solving in new ways and avoid the pitfalls of uncertainty, disagreement and chaos. The facilitated, collaborative methodology of a group-driven decision tool is the shortest path to lasting problem resolution and a strong culture of teamwork.

What is a collaborative decision example?

Collaboration can be between different engineering teams in an organization, or different verticals of a larger entity. In rare cases, even competitors – or leaders of different industries – come together to create collaborations that endure. Super groups are famous in rock and roll; the association between Apple iPod and Nike resulted in a new class of athleisure, for example.

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