Leadership Blog

Decision Making Teams

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

During my executive coaching sessions, I am frequently asked by my clients how to improve the decision making process amongst their teams.  So let’s focus on how teams make the most optimum decisions in business situations.

There are three areas that need to be considered when getting a team together to solve a problem, create a new product, market or business model, or think strategically on where they are going. These are:

  1. Size of the group or team
  2. Make-up of the team
  3. Focus and clarity of the teams objectives (content)


Let’s start with the easiest one first, the size of the group. Seven people is the optimal size of a decision making group. Research has shown that each additional member reduces effectiveness by 10%. This suggests that groups of 17 or more are lucky if they make any decisions at all.

Team Participants

This can be analyzed from three perspectives inside of the make up of the team. The first is the functional areas, skills and knowledge around the table. Do you have the right people with the right expertise to make this decision? What is the caliber of our team?

Second is the level, titles or power of the people around the table. Of course this will depend on what the decision needs to be made or what goal need to be accomplished, but it is important that the individuals selected fit the need such as strategic, tactical, leaders, managers, workers or executives with power to make the decisions. They are selected to create a “high performing team” with the authority to make decisions or given the opportunity by management to implement recommendations.

Third is the social style of the team members. As previously described in early blog posts, we all have a dominate social style of either driver, analytical, expressive or amiable. Each of these styles look at a problem or situation through a different lens, and each take different approaches to solve a given situation. This is exactly why “high performing teams” have people on the team with each style. If you need to a decision made about a new market, product or strategy; you will want people from each style around the table. If you get mostly one style chances are it will be a wrong or not the optimum decision.

Focus and Clarity

A determining factor in team decision resides in the strength of its leader. Leadership is about clarity, focus and asking the right questions. The team making a decision needs to know many aspects (or inputs) into the decision:

–         What decision are we trying to make?

–         Why do we need this decision?

–         What time constraints do we have?

–         What parameters must we follow (possibly budget or money)?

–         Will this decision be aligned with company goals?

–         What resource constraints do we have?

The leader will be the individual who keeps everyone focused on answering these questions and making sure that the discussions remain on track and solve the problem at hand.

These are some considerations for teams to make the best decisions. A well balanced, high performing team can solve just about any issue when it has the right mix of social styles, is sized appropriately and asks the right questions before starting to make decisions.

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