10 Tips for Making Decisions in the Workplace

Increasingly, organizations and companies see the value of having a thoughtful approach to making decisions. Decision-making in meetings can consume a lot of our time or they can be satisfying opportunities to learn from colleagues and accomplish meaningful work together.  Here are ten tips for decision-making done well.

  1. Figure out how important and urgent a decision it is. Most of us live in a rushed work world. Every decision has to be made as soon as possible. Really? Step away and check how important and how urgent a decision really is.
  2. Consider a range of possible decision-making options. Any of the following options are perfectly valid, depending on the nature of the decision and people involved: single person decides, subgroup decides, vote is used, consensus is sought.
  3. When seeking consensus, define what you mean up front. For example, you might continue to explore and debate until everyone is fully supportive of the final decision, regardless of the time spent on the process. Or you might seek consensus for a defined period of time after which another decision-making option gets used.
  4. Get clear on the current situation that calls for a decision. For example, if you’re going to decide on a new client survey form, make sure everyone involved is clear about the current form, how it’s been used, what is working and what challenges have been experienced with it.
  5. Include the right people in the process. It’s a problem when the only people charged with making a decision are doing so for political reason, or by default. Think through who would be the best people to involve in the decision.
  6. Explain whether people have consultative or decisive voice. When you get people involved, let them know if you want them to be part of the final decision (decisive voice), or if you are inviting their their opinion, suggestions and perspective (consultative voice).
  7. Make all the data available and know that’s never all of it. Gather the available data to help inform a decision. If you’re stuck, you need more. Remember, data includes people’s fears, wishes, sense of security, etc. It is all data and all plays into a decision.
  8. Estimate when a decision will be made and let people know in advance. If a decision gets delayed for whatever reason, give people an update. When the decision is made, make sure everyone knows.
  9. Expect and embrace struggle. Sam Kaner, in his book Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, offers a great model for recognizing the inevitable “groan zone” of decision-making process. We prefer to call it the “growth” zone and it can be challenging to navigate through.
  10. Check out some great resources on the topic including the Heath brothers’ book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, 2013.

What tips do you have for good decision-making?


Valerie Uccellani is a Senior Partner and Core Consulting Team Leader with Global Learning Partners. Read more of Valerie’s writing here.

Here are some additional resources that may interest you:

  1. Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner – a book (free to download)
  2. Three Decision-Making Roles – a GLP video
  3. Three Decision-Making Roles – a GLP resource
  4. Participatory Decision-Making Technique: Dot-ocracy – a GLP blog
  5. Talking Circle: More Than a Technique – a GLP blog

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