Decision Making in a Team of Equals

Fundamentally there are two types of teams — teams with a formal authority (think of regular corporate teams with managers) and teams made of equals (think of a MBA class study group). The fundamental dynamics in effect in these two kinds teams are entirely different, therefore requiring different approaches in the way these teams work towards realizing their goals.

Decision making in a team with formal authority

Typically, the individuals in these teams make an opinion and try to influence the team towards their opinion. In effect each member acts as a goal keeper safe guarding their opinions and ideas, leading to discussions and debates to prove/disprove each others ideas.

Individual’s sense of idea/opinion ownership

Eventually, the team would arrive at consensus or made to arrive at a consensus by the formal authority. In this sense, the teams with a formal authority are relatively assured to arrive at sensible decisions within the acceptable time frame.

Decision making in a team of equals

This starts with a similar situation as above, where each individual guards his opinions and ideas while trying to channelize the team opinion towards the same. Except, there is no formal authority who can dictate a decision on the members in the event of team failing to arrive at a consensus. This leaves a dent on the team’s capabilities to arrive at a solution better than individual opinions. In the extreme cases, the team hits mental fatigue and excepts potentially non optimal solutions to move forward.

The key to better decision making in a team of equals is to disassociate ideas/opinions from its owners before any debates and discussions. The moment you strip people off their association with their ideas, they are more objective in the subsequent discussions. This is akin to creating a situation where the entire team together is safeguarding and punching the ideas at the same time.

Shifted Goal Post

By shifting the goal posts from behind the individual players to construct this common goal posts for the team, we could achieve better results for the team.

In conclusion, identifying the nature of team structure would help define the process of decision making for optimal results.