Your group has received the offer of a large sum of money for continuing to do the work they do. The only detail is that the funds are offered by a much more radical group than yours. If the money is accepted, it will seriously damage some of the relationships for decision-making that it has taken years to build – relationships that allow the group to do many things. Would you accept the donation and be linked to the most radical group?
Recently, a position has been announced for the organization’s deputy director. Julia, who has been a volunteer in the organization for a long time (and who is also a reliable friend), has applied for that position and has told you about her enthusiasm for having that possibility. Great! – except that you have received the curriculum vitae of another woman, which is, objectively, a better candidate and that would provide much more skills necessary for the group. You know that Julia would do a good job, but she suspects that the other candidate would be even better. What would I do?
Oh! Decision-Making. It is one of the most basic tasks of leadership, and yet one of the things that we, as leaders, want to avoid. Deciding is limiting possibilities; say “no” to some options; to refuse. Also, when we make a decision, there are consequences; and those consequences when they are not what we expected, then we could be blamed – either by ourselves or by someone else.
At the same time, a well-taken decision helps the organization to walk in the right direction; A well thought out decision can be very valuable to the group. In an important decision, the risks can be very high – which is one reason, perhaps, why this process has taken away our sleep at night.
Importance Of Decision-Making
What are the implications of the decisions we make? The direct consequences of our decisions may be obvious, but in addition, it is important to remember:
- Our decisions affect people. Almost every decision we make affects different people in one way or another. It is important to be aware of the influence that our decisions have and understand what the human cost will be.
- The decisions we make demonstrate our values. Our acts testify more powerfully than our words about what we believe. For example, if a senator speaks in favor of “family values,” but has a history of well-documented extra-marital relationships, we will be very skeptical of the values he claims to believe in.
- Our decisions set an example for those who follow us. As leaders, we must understand that what we say and do will be seen by our followers; that our actions will be copied and modified by those who respect us. For example, if alcohol is served or not at a fundraising event, a powerful message is sent to those they attend, and it can be copied by others who hold similar events. In a very real sense, “follow the leader” is a game that many people continue to play throughout their lives.
- Show the desire to lead. In decision-making, we tell our followers that we are willing to take the reins, direct the action and do things. We have shown that we are willing to take risks and accept the consequences of our actions.
- Not deciding is a decision in itself.
Because decision-making is an important part of leadership, as well as being something that we can not avoid, it is a good idea to know the best way to cope with the process. The first step to do that is to understand what the possibilities are.
Types Of Decision-Making: Who Decides?
When it’s time to make a decision, who takes it? Should decisions be made by a single person, by a committee or by the whole group? Each of these methods is valid and each one may be appropriate for a group under different circumstances. In general, when determining who will make the decisions of the organization, the following should be considered:
- The importance that the group perceives about the decision
- The time available to make the decision
- The number of other decisions that have been made
- The degree to which the decision requires specialized skills
- The interest and time others have in making decisions
When the decision is important when there is enough time, when other issues are not present when there is less specialized skill involved and when others express their interest in the decision-making, they are all situations in which decentralized decision making or a decision in the group may be appropriate. However, when there are opposite conditions – in an emergency, for example, or when expert information needs to be processed or when nobody cares much – it may be better for a smaller group, or even a single person, to make the decision.
There are three basic paradigms of decision making that the group can follow, each of which has its own variants, and each of which may be appropriate for an organization under different circumstances:
Only one person decides.
When a single person has the responsibility to make a decision, the decision can be made with or without the input of other group members. Decisions taken without input are most often made by leaders or experts or simply by the person most involved in the subject. For example, an administrative assistant who is writing the organization’s bulletin may not ask for an opinion as to what type of source to use; he will simply choose it.
Although this option may sound a little dictatorial and remind us that that boss whom we REALLY hate, sometimes, is the option that makes the most sense. Every organization works thanks to the thousands of small decision-making by its members every day. Some are very small, so much so that even the person who takes them hardly notes them-how the phone is answered, how a letter is signed, what paper colors to buy, etc. Due to the number of decisions that are made, it is simply not realistic to think that we are going to discuss any decision with all the people in the group.
A person who decides with input can ask the whole group about what they think; ask a small group (such as the advisory council) for their recommendations; or look for some individuals with experience in the subject.
Finally, it is important for leaders to know when it is more appropriate to leave decisions to others. If a leader does not know when to delegate, his time (and potentially the time of many people) will be consumed by many details that could be better handled by others. For example, the executive director can decide what the advisory council’s letters should say to the members but leave such decisions as who buys the paper, in which store, etc., to the manager of the office.
Also, if other members of the organization feel that they have some power or “what to say” in the group, they will be more likely to invest their time and energy in what they are doing. A leader who makes all decisions deprives himself of the experience of his staff and deprives the staff of the ability to grow and make significant contributions to the organization.
How can a leader avoid the phenomenon of “micro-administration”, which can be extremely damaging? Here are some of the things that can help:
Open communication with others in the organization. There is simply no substitute for talking to people and learning from their strengths, weaknesses and the level of responsibility with which they feel comfortable. Communication with followers is very important: there is absolutely no substitute for clear and open communication between a leader and his followers.
Recognize the skills. If a coalition member works full-time as a graphic designer, he or she may be asked to design a logo for the group. The intelligent leader knows that sometimes, the best decision he can make is to pass the decision to someone more prepared than himself. We must remember: we are all followers in some things.
Match opportunities with experience. It should start by giving followers a small amount of freedom and power to make decisions; as they grow and become ready for greater responsibility, they should be granted. One does not start reading with Cervantes; one started with alphabet books and the like. Decision-making skills take time to develop as well; Over time, the intelligent leader gives more and more decision power to a follower who shows to be ready for that. A leader not only allows a follower to develop his skills slowly and carefully but allows him to do so in a way that does not put a crushing amount of pressure on himself (or too many worries for the leader).
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A group decides by consensus.
In a consensus, the entire group will agree to take certain actions. There are different variants on this too. For example, there is a “solid” consensus, in which everyone has to agree; that is, each member will say or write “Yes, I agree that we should do that.” We also see “soft” consensuses, where everyone can disagree, but at least they do not object vocally. “Soft” consensus is very common, especially when groups have a lot to do. He says, “Okay, we can live with that, so let’s move on to the next issue.”
However, even “soft” consensus can be difficult to achieve when groups grow. Sometimes, it is very difficult to get two people, much less two hundred, to agree on something. For this reason, many groups move to the third possibility:
A group decides by means of a vote.
When people vote, there are several ways to determine the minimum vote needed. The minimum vote can be:
A plurality – that is, the largest number of votes the decision is made, even if that number is less than half of the total votes. Pluralities are used in cases where there are three or more possibilities to choose.
A simple majority – more than half of the votes are cast for the same thing.
Two thirds or more of the vote in favor of a certain option.
A fourth possibility, which is worth mentioning briefly, is that decision that can be made by using more than one of these types. For example, a group may be inclined to consensus. If it can not be achieved, then it can be by vote – or it can be decided to analyze the issue a little more before carrying out a vote.
How To Decision-Making?
So, what should the leader do to make decisions? Although each leader has a different style, the following steps are useful in most circumstances, especially for larger and more important decisions.
Decide who decides. This is a decision usually made by the leader. You might consider the list of features listed in Who should decide? above mentioned to help you with this initial decision.
See for the conformity of the people. If the decision is made by a group of people, it is the task of the group leader to ensure that the level of compliance is high among the participants. It is difficult for many people to speak openly in a group, especially if they do not know the other members well. Remember: the silence of the members of the group is an automatic loss for the organization. See Chapter 17, Section 6: Generate and choose solutions (Ref. Source); There are some useful tips on the subject.
Once we have prepared the terrain, let’s put it that way, we are ready to begin to see the situation in front of us. Those who make decisions must:
See the decision as part of a global vision. It is easy to get stuck in the moment. However, it is important to see where the decision is in the “big picture” of what is being done. Simply, decision-makers have a basic understanding of how this decision will affect the issue in which they are working, as well as the organization as a whole.
Collect information. Information can come from a wide variety of sources-from the press, from people affected by the problem, from people who have a lot of influence in the community, from statistics and from many other sources. However, the important thing is to remember that whatever is done, this step should not be overlooked too quickly. It is very likely that we regret an uninformed (or poorly informed) decision. Therefore, you should try to find everything you can about the decision and its consequences, including:
- The likely outcome
- Possible results
- Side effects
- Possible solutions
The opinions of others about the decision and its possible solutions
The ideas of others who have gone through similar experiences
Although we suggest gathering as much information as possible, it should be understood that you probably will not have all the information you want when a decision is made. Frankly, there may never be a time when you have all the information, and waiting too long can stall the process, which is not useful for anyone. Therefore, when you have information that is considered essential, or that is available, you are probably ready to continue to the next step.
Consider all possible solutions. Using all the information that has been collected, you should make a list of the decisions imaginable.
If the decision requires a yes/no or either or a response, this step is less necessary, but even then, it should not be completely ignored. A decision that seems to be a simple choice of this or that may actually have other possibilities hidden beneath the surface.
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What Is The Lesson Here?
When weighing options, we should not be closed-minded.
If there are many possibilities, this point is even more important. If you, the leader, have decided to make this decision on your own, we suggest that you consult with others on this point, to see what the others suggest. It may even be considered a brainstorming session in which several people come together and try to think of as many possibilities as they can imagine. The techniques of brainstorming and generating choose solutions or you can also check the Tools at the end of this section.
Evaluate the possibilities.
When a list of possible options has been prepared, it is necessary to sit down and evaluate which ones make the most sense for the organization at that time. The questions the decision maker must ask include:
- How much time and effort will each of these options take?
- What can we do financially?
- What can we do politically?
- What options do we want to follow at all?
- What information do we still lack that could change our decision?
- What will be the probable reactions of other members of our group?
- What will be the probable reactions of people outside our group?
- What seems to be the best option for our group at this time?
There is a form that can be used to record the answers to these questions which is available in Tools. Sometimes, a decision-making is easier when we have all the ideas organized in front of us, in ink.
Decide. After you have the information and the possibilities have been evaluated, it is finally time to decide. If the steps described in this chapter have been closely followed, the decision must be clear-even if it is not always easy, and even if remorse is still present. Let’s face it, options are rarely easy in any aspect of our lives; unfortunately, our work for our communities is not different from that.
Follow up on the decision. Finally, it is the responsibility of the decision makers to make sure that they are carried out and that all the work done is not lost.
Change The Process Scale
The decision-making process, as described above, focuses mainly on major and more difficult decisions, with consequences that mainly weigh on the leaders and have a great effect on the entire organization. However, the process can also be used on a small scale, using the parts that are most needed in a more casual way day by day.
The Last Word: Decide Not
TO DECIDE Throughout this section, we have discussed the importance of a good decision. However, there are times when a decision is set aside or avoided altogether. Why is this happening?
Well, when we face a difficult situation, we should not rush to decision-making and refuse contributions from other people and to the discussion. This may be more “impulsive” than decisive and may have negative consequences for the group. For example, we could have decided before we had all the important information or before everyone had the opportunity to fully explain their views or to address the terms of a decision they did not agree with.
Then, sometimes, the conscious decision to “not decide” may be the way to go. After careful deliberation, those involved in decision-making may decide that it is better to wait until more information is available or until members have had a chance to “calm down” if there has been an intense debate on the subject.
Making decisions and supervising those who make decisions behind one are two basic tasks of leadership. By systematizing the way in which decisions are made, you can ensure that each decision is the best possible. The members of the organization will appreciate a systematic and fair way of making decisions, and the organization will benefit fully from the leader’s skill in deciding.