The 8 Stages in Team Decision-Making

Decision-making is a key managerial task and it is in business meetings that we usually take them. Every decision carries uncertainty and risk.

To reduce uncertainty, it is advisable to create spaces for discussion where mutual respect allows the complementarity of the different points of view of the participants to be valued.

The risk is more linked to the execution of those decisions. To face the risk, the key is to have been able to build a good mutual trust base between the people who have to execute them. In many cases, these people will be the ones who were present at the business meeting where the decision was made. Trust is based on mutual knowledge and the intelligence of wanting to bet on a self-reinforcement reciprocity.

The team decision-making model that we present, and which is adapted from the one proposed by Dr. Ichak Adizes, aims to improve the quality of the decision made through mutual respect and the quality of its execution through improvement of mutual trust.

We highlight the stages of the decision making process, the fluctuations in the team’s mood, and the affinity of the various human personalities of the participants with one or another phase of the process.

The eight stages of a team decision-making process are the following:

  1. Defreezing. We usually work in problem solving mode and when we get to a meeting our head is still on what we have done before. We need to stop and connect with the right part of the brain that opens the way for connection and creativity. A short initial round of how each one is doing helps to connect with each of the team members before tackling the issue at hand. Five or ten minutes is enough. Of course, there must be a strict punctuality at the beginning of the process to be able to do this exercise all at the same time and create a shared feeling.
  2. Get the data and facts. It is time to put on the table the information and criteria necessary to solve the problem, and the variables that come into play in the matter on which a decision is to be made. Numbers, facts, history, factors, interests, etc. It is the stage of collecting and structuring all the information.
  3. Deliberate. Regarding the information shared, the team questions the whys, relates, looks for patterns that can be repeated, connects the dots. It can be helpful to differentiate which elements are manifestations, which are symptoms (causes of those manifestations), and which are more root cause (causes of symptoms).
  4. Incubate solutions. At this point the team should have a good analysis. There is still no clarity on what to do, only potential solutions. It is necessary to take some distance to gain perspective and start generating possible solutions.
  5. Illumination. It is the moment when a member of the team contributes a brilliant idea that allows the solutions that were on the table to converge. It is clear what the problem is and what may be the best decision to solve it.
  6. Build consensus. What has just appeared as a brilliant idea still needs to be polished, doubts resolved, and the possible negative consequences of the decision explored. The team has yet to outline the nuances, agree that this is the best solution and how it will be implemented.
  7. Finalize with decisions. With all the questions practically resolved at this stage, the team is in the optimal situation to make the final decision.
  8. Reinforcement. The team is clear about what to do. In this last stage, the most tactical aspects of who will do it, how, the calendar, and its follow-up are agreed upon. With these elements we can close the process.

The diversity of management styles makes each member of the team go through these steps at a different pace, which often causes disconnection, boredom, hasty decision-making or frustration. If everyone is clear about what is being done in each stage the process will be more effective and efficient. Are we collecting information? It is time to be open, to listen, to consider multiple possible alternatives. Are we making the final decision? It is time to focus, to put aside the generation of new ideas and ideas that for some reason have been discarded.

When a diverse team is aware of where it is in the decision-making process it works better, because alignment flows more naturally. This is a great advantage of the process.

The decision-making process and the diversity of managerial styles

Based on the color model we use we can predict how each profile will intervene in meetings. Thus, for example, the producer and the entrepreneur will be very agile, the administrator and the integrator will focus more on the process than on the result, the entrepreneur and the integrator will follow an unstructured process, the producer and the administrator will have a more rational perspective, with more focus on the structure of the process.

In this way, knowing in advance the preferences of each style in decision-making, we can better manage the team so that the process flows and everyone ads value with its own complementary capabilities:

  • The administrator, with a rational and introverted profile, will feel comfortable in the phases of getting the data and deliberation. He can also be very useful in the last phase where assignments are given. Without input from the other styles, he could get stuck here in an exhaustive search for information.
  • The entrepreneur, with an emotional and extrovert profile, will shine in the phase of seeing the light conceiving new ideas. Mind that he could be in a perpetual state of generating new ideas without drawing a conclusion at the end of the meeting.
  • The producer, with a rational and extrovert profile, will be urged to get to the action as soon as possible. Without the complementarity of the team, the decision-making could be rushed, causing collateral effects of lack of alignment in the team that will take their toll at the time of execution. Also, a premature focus on action would hamper creativity and global vision.
  • The integrator, with an introverted emotional profile, adapts to the team, feeling especially comfortable in the defreezing stage, but especially useful in the consensus-seeking stage.

The team’s mood in the decision-making process

An interesting element is to take into account that from the emotional point of view the team involved in the decision-making process will experience moments of positive and negative energy.

  • Meetings often start with a rather negative energy level. It is sensed that one has been summoned to one more meeting without perhaps a clear objective.
  • The moment of getting the data causes a slight increase in energy. The meeting may lead to some valuable conclusion.
  • Deliberation and incubation leads to negative energy again. There is a lack of clarity about the problem and the solution, and it does not seem feasible to reach an agreement.
  • Illumination brings a peak of positive energy. Finally a brilliant idea comes to light.
  • The moment of greatest negative energy is the moment of consensus. Each member of the team is attached to his opinion and it is not easy to reach an agreement. Doubts arise.
  • Ultimately, the final decision-making brings the team to the peak of greatest positive energy. Objective achieved.

If we take into account the stages of the decision-making process, the flow of energy in the team throughout the process, and the preferences of the various personalities, it will be easier for us to create the favorable conditions to have a diverse and aligned team capable of making good decisions and execute them brilliantly.