The Decision Making Spectrum

“Deciding” is perhaps the second most important aspect of every collaboration effort, immediately after “doing”. Yet, many efforts to make a decision seem to go astray. There are many reasons leading to this outcome, but one of the most important ones, that is also very easy to fix, is lack of clarity on the decision-making process itself.

Today I want to focus on a few aspects in which additional clarity can be easily obtained: who is making the decision? and how is the rest of the group will be involved?

I’ve been iterating on this simple spectrum over the past several months and while it’s not unique in any way, shape, or form — I found it to be particularly helpful in driving clarity around these two aspects:

The spectrum spans from more authoritative decision-making modes, to more collaborative decision making modes. The left-hand side includes several modes in which there is still a single decision maker, where the right-hand side includes several modes in which the group is making the decision.

Clarifying which mode will be used in making a certain decision goes a long way in providing the clarity needed for a smoother decision making process.

  • Full own/delegate — an individual, either inside or outside of the group, is making the decision, and the rest of the group is not involved in making the decision in any way. The would not even know that the decision was made.
  • Inform — an individual is making the decision, and informs the rest of the group of the decision that was made after the fact.
  • Consult — an individual is making the decision, only after consulting the group members and explicitly soliciting their input.
  • Democratic — the group is using a democratic vote to make the decision. The group will move forward with the option with the most votes/majority/supermajority.
  • Consent — all group members must not object to a certain course of action for the decision to be ratified. Objections must be reasoned and paramount. Full agreement that this is the best path forward is not required, just that you can “live with the decision” or view it as “safe enough to try”.
  • Consensus — all group members must agree that this is the best path forward.