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How to make better decisions together? Three common problems and ways to solve them

The ability to make decisions efficiently is an essential success factor for companies, regardless of the industry they are operating in; the faster a company is able to form shared views and rate ideas, the faster it can react and adapt to changes.

Business Technology is a strategy for organizing and coordinating technology management across the organization. It requires companies to take a holistic view on development and therefore it is essential to engage experts from different parts of the organization in the decision-making process.

With traditional methods, decision-making slows down when key decision-makers’ calendars are fully booked months ahead. There are three typical challenges:

Challenge 1: Lack of shared time

Surprisingly often, an organization has a relatively small group of experts – the “usual suspects” – that is asked to express their opinions on technology related matters throughout the organization.

Not that surprisingly, these key experts become easily overbooked – after all, everyone wants to make decisions rapidly since Business Technology affects many parts of the organization.

Therefore, the need for speed is actually slowing down the decision-making process, which again increases the need for speed even further. Meanwhile, the more agile competitors have probably already made the decisions, while others are still searching for empty slots in their calendars.

Challenge 2: Inefficient (and expensive) meetings

Once the key people finally do get together to discuss about important topics requiring decisions, the meetings are often inefficient, and the shared time is not well spent.

Often people without required competences are invited to the meetings just in case and the total cost of a single meeting is rarely calculated. And since many experts spend their days sitting in meetings just in case, they don’t have shared time for the meetings where they are really needed.

Challenge 3: Lack of shared views

Reaching rapid decisions requires that participants have been engaged in discussions, they have been able to reach a shared understanding on the matters at hand, and that they have committed to common goals.

Since proper facilitation methods are rarely used in daily meetings and workshops, participants might leave the room without a shared understanding and decisions are then made without proper commitment. Often the lack of shared time and inefficient meetings are actually causing the lack of shared view since the group doesn’t have enough time to concentrate on the essentials. As a result, the decisions may exist on paper, but they’re not properly applied into daily practices.

Three ways to improve decision-making facilitation

1) Split large decision items into smaller, human-sized decision points.

In general, it’s easier to reach small decisions than bigger ones. Try to split large decision items into smaller decision points that you bring to the table one by one, by choosing the suitable facilitation methods in advance.

This way, lengthy meetings can be avoided, and smaller decision are made sooner and more easily. In addition, capabilities to faster react to changes and see the big picture increase.

2) Involve only the right people.

It’s far easier to steer a smaller group of people than a bigger one. Make sure to involve only the key people needed in each phase – do not invite anyone ”just in case” neither in workshops nor online discussions.

While most digital collaboration services allow large groups to join discussions, they rarely support facilitation methods which are essential for reaching common understanding and commitment. Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.

Channels like Yammer, MS Teams and Slack are very good at spreading the word, getting final comments from a larger audience and informing about progress. However, they’re not made for professional facilitation. Usually the best results are created by mixing different tools and channels according to the situation.

3) Facilitate time and place independently.

Often, finding a suitable calendar slot for a meeting takes more time than the decision item itself.

In the digital era, collaborative decision-making doesn’t need to depend on time or place. People can contribute to the decision-making no matter where they are located and when it best suits their calendars. Using time and place independent online facilitation solutions between (and even instead of) meetings is more efficient use of limited time and decreases company’s travel expenses.

It goes without saying that tools alone won’t solve this. What matters are both facilitation expertise and, perhaps even more a lively culture of sharing in the organization. In case the employees don’t see value in sharing their knowledge internally – or they’re afraid of doing so – it becomes difficult to get people participating in online collaboration or decision-making no matter which facilitation trick you might bring to the table.

Sofigate utilizes Roundtable throughout a wide range of Business Technology assignments led by professional facilitators.  Roundtable brings together the best elements of workshop facilitation methods, social media environments, and agile principles – regardless of time and place. You can read more about  Roundtable here.

About the author

Juho Nevalainen is an expert in strategies, operating models, digital concept design and digital development. Juho helps clients by utilizing wide range of facilitation methods regardless of time and place. At Sofigate, Juho is also the concept owner for Roundtable service.