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Ten Questions for Decision Making

The following questionnaire measures how well your group or organization approaches important decisions. Read each statement and indicate how true it is for your own team or company, using the following ratings:

0 = never
5 = sometimes
10 = always

Then read the accurate answer.

1. We involve all people who have a stake in or knowledge about the topic.

Many groups make a big mistake from the start of problem solving: they leave out people who have knowledge about or a stake in the results. Consequently, their organization loses good ideas, and those people who are left out of the process resist implementing the final decision.

2. We expressly state our hopes for the organization and specific hopes for each major project or decision.

If you aren’t clear about where you want to go, you won’t get there. You need a set of guiding objectives with which participants can align themselves.

3. We listen to each person’s thoughts and feelings about a topic to withstand the real issue(s).

Too many organizations start to solve a problem or decide on a course of action before they understand the real issue(s). Understanding the real issue(s) pays off in greater clarity and a deeper level of buy-in from participants.

4. All the options for a project or decision get out on the table.

It pays to air all alternatives before leaping to conclusions. This discourages the tendency to settle on preset ideas and enables the group to consider a wide range of solutions, and then drill down to find the best.

5. We focus our information gathering on how the options help us realize our hopes.

By working together to gather information, the group learns as a whole. It also discourages one or two members from gathering  only information that supports their viewpoint.

6. When we review our choices, we listen to everyone’s negatives and positives on each option before deciding.

Ideally, each team member should express something negative and something positive about each option. Allowing participants to choose an option to advocate and then defend leads to ego attachment to an idea and kills effective team decision making in the end.

7. Each person expresses his or her candid judgment on which choices would best advance the team’s hopes.

What you want is each person’s unbiased view of what would be best for the organization. You don’t want individuals to be pressured to conform or to fear losing face if they change their minds. So consider secret straw ballots to determine how members stand on an option.

8. We summarize the individual conclusions and identify the most desirable course of action as well as other acceptable choices.

Ideally, participants should work together to improve what appear to be the most favored choices, considering elements of other favored choices. It’s unwise to come up with only one solution. Better to identify acceptable alternative solutions and deal with changes that might be needed to improve them, and then select the best among the good ideas.

9. We monitor whether our decisions are working and promptly modify them as needed.

It is important to set a specific time frame in which to assess how well your decision is working. Be aware that situations change, and a good decision made previously may no longer be adequate for the current dilemma.

10. We celebrate the team’s progress and the fulfillment of our hopes.

Celebrate how your choice helped your organization fulfill its objectives.

How did you do? Add up your scores to determine your group’s approach to decision making. If your score is 90 or more, your group demonstrates outstanding teamwork when making decisions. If your score is between 60 and 90, your team has much strength on which to build and opportunities for growth. An initial score between 40 and 60 is typical of many groups. Your decisions could be better if you practiced the team principles represented by the questions listed. Below 40, your group is drastically under-using the talents of its members.

This article is excerpted, by permission of the publisher, from How Great Decisions Get Made: 10 Easy Steps for Reaching Agreement on Even the Toughest Issues. Copyright 2004, Don Maruska. Published by AMACOM, AMA’s book division. For more information on this book and other AMA titles, visit www.amanet.org/books