Making decisions collaboratively – a contradiction in terms?

desicion makingIs the current focus on collective, collaborative leadership having the consequence of ‘stale mate’ on making the tough difficult decisions that need to be made? Listening to a number of clients sharing their challenges of late, we begin to wonder if this is an unintended consequence of collaboration? We welcome your views on this?

Feedback we’re hearing is that on the one hand we are encouraging senior leaders to leave their comfortable silos and work across organisational systems, but with that comes a requirement to make decisions that affect the whole system. The prevailing behaviour (driven maybe by anxiety, lack of trust, general ‘not knowing the other’) seems to be one of  everyone  accommodating everyone  else in the system – the good news is there’s lots of care and appreciation and people being very nice to each other, but the not so good is that the big decisions are being skirted around, avoided, postponed… with obvious consequences.

Understanding how collaborative groups can develop their skill in decision making would clearly help. The following are a few tips from our recent work with clients:

  • Encourage groups to value having a difference of opinion. Once groups start to recognise that differing opinions rather than a similar shared opinion enable better thinking and better decisions to happen, then more ‘outing’ of views takes place, which is essential. Its not easy because trust pokes its nose in: it’s harder to disagree when we don’t know/trust others in the system. Agreeing to disagree can always be in the terms of engagement or ground rules?
  • Everyone understanding their own biases/assumptions that they are bringing to the issue; to share them and for them to be received without judgment.
  • Aligning everyone with a shared sense of why they’re there – of purpose.
  • And very importantly having the courage to be held to account…..
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