Helping Teams to Make Quick Decisions
Struggling to make decisions in your team? Here’s three simple steps you can use to make things easier.
I recently facilitated a lengthy meeting, for a large group of people, all with differing opinions, thoughts to share, and a long list of decisions that needed to be made.
The agenda was packed and it was unlikely the group would get through even half of it.
I wanted to help the group make their decisions quickly, without anyone feeling rushed, while making sure they all felt heard and we had consensus. I spent time researching ways to help get to a decision quickly and every article I came across involved at least 30 to 60 minutes of effort to get to a single decision. I didn’t have this time to play with, we’d be there for days at that pace. And so I started writing down things that would help us get to a decision quickly and from there, the decision canvas was born. And it involves just 3 simple steps.
The decision canvas helped the group make decisions at lightning speed and feel confident in what they had agreed on
Step 1, Be Clear
What is the decision to be made?
Before the meeting, write down what decision needs to be made and the objective or metric it relates to.
Being clear upfront and having a shared understanding will get you off to a flying start.
Step 2, Capture Reasons
Reasons why, why not and dependencies
Next, get the group to call out reasons why they think it should be done, why it shouldn’t and any dependencies.
In the first version of the decision canvas I had 5 dot points under the reasons why and why not — this didn’t work so well. We didn’t always have 5 reasons why or why not, and so in the second version I removed the dot points and left space to jot down a few, or many reasons.
Dependencies will always come into the discussion so it’s great to note them down while reasons why and reasons why not are being bounced around.
I found the group moved through this really quickly, but if you think they could be there for a while, set a timer on your phone and let them know how long they have to call out their reasons.
For example, give the group 1–2 minutes to call out reasons why, quickly followed by a further 1–2 minutes to call out reasons why not, and lastly give them an extra minute to call out any dependencies.
Step 3, Vote
Vote for an outcome
Next, get the group to vote for an outcome. Either YES let’s go ahead and do this, or NO I don’t think we should do this.
You can vote with sticker dots, markers, or just get people to raise their hand, they all work equally well.
By having the group vote, it’s clear for everyone to see what decision has been made. You’ve done it in record time too!
Write down the decision in the space provided and then talk about next steps so everyone knows how they’re going to proceed with the decision. It could be scheduling another meeting, doing research, communicating it to the team etc.
Take a picture of the decision canvas and share it with your team or stakeholders. It’s a quick read and gets everyone on the same page. It also gives the team visibility on how you came to make the decision.
I found this useful in facilitating decision making on binary outcomes, for example, should we introduce feature x into our flagship product?
For bigger, more nuanced discussions you could break down the problem into a set of binary decisions that you can then apply the decision canvas to. It will require more work ahead of the meeting, however will set you up to leave the meeting with your desired outcomes.
Let me know if you find the decision canvas useful in helping your teams get to a decision quickly.