10 Effective Team Decision-Making Techniques: How To Make Decisions More Smoothly as a Team

Making decisions as a team can be tough, and there isn’t always a clear direction about how to proceed. Here we give you the top team decision-making techniques, which can be used to make your decision-making processes more efficient and focused, right from the very beginning.

It’s decision time! Your team has a big decision to make, and has budgeted some time to discuss it and figure out a plan. But now, what do you do?

This may seem simple enough: just make the decision. However, as we’ve shown in the last couple of posts on decision making, there are many different methods and styles that you can choose from to go about making decisions.

It’s not always clear how to proceed with a decision, especially at the very beginning, and especially when you have a team involved, whose various opinions you need to take into account. 

Oftentimes, teams tend to fall back on open meetings or discussions, or even simple majority voting. But these techniques implicitly value louder voices and majority views at the beginning. It can leave out minority views or team members who aren’t as outspoken, and it can lock in place certain assumptions from the beginning.

What teams need from the start of a decision-making process are decision-making techniques that bring differing views forward in an equitable and inclusive way. After all, teams benefit from having an array of different options to choose from, and having as many voices contributing and collaborating achieves this.

So in this blog post, we will look at some different decision-making techniques that teams can use to inspire inclusive discussions, gain new perspectives on issues, get more focused on what’s truly important, and make the decision-making process overall more effective.

These techniques should be used as jumping-off points rather than ends in themselves. Use these techniques at initial stages of the decision-making process, or at points when your team gets stuck, in order to push forward more easily. These techniques can allow your team to gain deeper insight into how your team thinks, as well as lessen any deadlocks that your team has.

10 decision-making techniques for teams

1. Brainstorming 

This is the classic decision-making technique that most teams know about and use. Brainstorming is a collaborative decision-making technique where team members come up with and combine ideas together. 

Most brainstorming sessions work best when they are free-flow, meaning that they don’t have a specific agenda, and allow team members the time and space to think and discuss freely. This makes brainstorming a particularly effective technique when the goal is to create something new or come up with a new idea. 

There are even different methods for brainstorming, so your team can explore different ways of using this highly creative decision-making technique.

2. Nominal Group Technique

The nominal group technique expands simple brainstorming by adding a voting element. This decision-making technique works by having team members vote on the ideas that emerge after an initial brainstorming session. After this vote, the winning idea is revealed. Or, you can repeat the brainstorm and vote steps until you have a more solidified idea.

The nominal group decision-making technique can be used to whittle down ideas that come up in brainstorming sessions, and add more focus to these sessions as well. They can also be used to gauge team member’s opinions after more chaotic brainstorming sessions, in which it can be difficult to gauge the team’s mood.  

3. The Delphi Method

The delphi method is a decision-making technique that is similar to the nominal group technique, except that instead of voting in between brainstorming sessions, a leader cuts down the number of ideas, or organizes them into larger clusters that can be discussed by the team in the next session. 

The steps of the method are:

  1. The team generates ideas–either through a brainstorming session or on its own.
  2. The leader edits these ideas down to a smaller list.
  3. The team discusses the new, smaller list of ideas.
  4. The leader further edits the list of ideas into an even smaller list.
  5. The team picks an idea to move forward on from the newest list.

As you can see, the method can be repeated as much as your team needs, each time whittling down the options further. This method of whittling allows your team to keep moving forward, since it can focus only on the most workable and important ideas.

4. Possibility Ranking

Possibility ranking is a decision-making technique that helps to prioritize certain ideas and goals, and visualize the importance that your team places on them. Possibility ranking is also rather simple and straightforward: have your team rank the possibilities that it has to choose from in a list form. 

This can be done together in the same meeting. Or it can be done individually or in smaller groups at first and then discussed as a group later on. It doesn’t even have to be done during a meeting at all–communicating possibility rankings is easy to do over email.

What possibility ranking does is forces team members to think critically about their priorities and what they actually value. It’s hard to really place all possibilities on a ranked list, but doing so allows you to see what you actually value as important in the decision-making process, which can help your team move forward with the decision.

5. Weighted Scoring 

Another decision-making technique that helps teams with prioritization is weighted scoring. Weighted scoring allows teams to work through the consequences of each decision by “weighing” each possible option based on a set of criteria. For example, you can weigh certain options based on riskiness if your team wants to avoid risk. Alternatively, you could way outcomes based on your team’s values or goals, such as quality or creativity.

Weighted scoring allows teams to partially see the outcomes of its decisions and how they affect its goals and values. Choosing how to attach the weights in the first place is a good exercise in team prioritization and figuring out what your team values (literally).

6. Decision Trees

Decision trees are another decision-making technique that helps teams to map out outcomes. Decision trees are also very analytical and rational ways of coming to decisions. They are mostly effective if the outcomes of certain alternatives are easily calculable, mappable, or known. 

Diagram from https://www.edrawmax.com/decision-tree/

In decision trees each node of the tree corresponds to a different decision based on the one that precedes it. The end of the branches of the tree represent the different outcomes for each option. This helps teams visualize the effects of decisions, but again, only when those outcomes are easily calculable or mappable.

Decision trees are also based on lots of connecting and underlying assumptions, so your team should be careful when using them in situations where there is more variability and uncertainty, or when a more creative and fluid approach is required.

7.  Pros and Cons Lists

Everyone knows about pros and cons lists–they’re one of most simple and widely-used decision-making techniques. But they work just as well for teams as they do for individuals. To use this technique, simply choose an option and write up all the pros and cons that your team can think of. If you have multiple options, you can compare their different pros and cons to determine which option to take. 

Obviously, spending the time to think of pros and cons for each decision takes time. So this decision-making technique is mostly effective when you have one, or a small group of options that you are looking at. 

8. Didactic Interaction

Don’t let the name scare you off. DIdactic interaction basically just means, “arguing the other side”. It’s a common exercise in schools and debate clubs, and it’s even considered to be a good technique for leaders. 

Didactic interaction works best when you have one decision to make–and preferably this decision should be “yes or no.” Here’s how it works:

  1. Divide your team up into two groups based on whether they support the “yes” or “no” position.
  2. Have each group write out the pros and cons of their positions.
  3. Then have the groups switch, so that the “yes” team writes out the pros and cons of the “no” position, and vice versa.
  4. Have the two sides share their results.
  5. Make a decision.

Didactic interaction gets team members to look at problems through different perspectives. It is especially useful when the team is deadlocked and can’t decide on a common standpoint to reach a decision on an issue. This method helps teams come together and recognize the valid points on both sides.

9. The Stepladder Technique

The stepladder is another decision-making technique that uses different steps of brainstorming to come to decisions. At each step, more and more team members are brought into the decision making process each time, thereby expanding the number of people each round and giving the chance for the decision to be looked at with new eyes.

Here is a guide to the technique:

  1. Announce the problem or task to the whole team so that their own views can simmer a bit.
  2. Create a core group of a few members that will be immersed in the issue or task and come up with initial solutions.   
  3. Bring in another member to the core group. This new member will review the work that’s been done and add their opinions. 
  4. Continue the same process in step 3 until all members of the team have been added to the decision-making group.  
  5. Make a final decision together. 

This technique works by slowly getting the whole team to learn about the issue or task, and engaging each team member individually to give their views and opinions. This method does take time though, so it is best used when you have a while to decide on a project. It’s also effective when you have team members working on multiple projects at once, since it doesn’t overwhelm all team members at once.

10. Consensus Mapping

Consensus mapping, like other decision-making techniques on this list, mixes team members around to brainstorming groups in different stages. In this method, the goal is to get a sense of where teams can reach a consensus at the end by “mapping” the linkages between different groups’ brainstorming sessions. 

Here is a (simplified) guide to the consensus-mapping process:

  1. Give team members time to think about the problem on their own individually.
  2. Group team members into groups of threes to share their ideas and combine them into one single idea, if possible.
  3. Combine these groups of threes into larger sub-groups, whose task is to merge the smaller groupings’ ideas together.
  4. Once you have two equal halves of the team, have them share their two (at this point combined) ideas together and try to form one decision for the whole team. 
  5. Discuss this final decision together.

As you can see, this technique succeeds at getting teams to actively construct consensus decisions in a step-by-step process. Since it can be difficult to create consensus decisions out of thin air, this method effectively pulls teams along by guiding them to create linkages between different options naturally in the different brainstorming sessions.  

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