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Let's say you have a small team 3-10 people and some kind of decision needs to be made. What are some techniques for encouraging a decision to be made and/or accepted?

I'm not sure I can pick a good concrete example as the answer might be different depending on the type of decision.

Maybe describing a situation first: The team needs to make a decision about something but no one is actually making the decision. The manager, or PM, might then say, "okay, how about we do X" but gets no feedback from the team on if it's the right decision, or a decision they agree with.

What techniques exist for encouraging consensus? Is this a problem of leadership that that PM isn't leading well so no one is following? What techniques could help solve that, whether it's getting the team to make the decision or, for them to at least follow if they're not going to choose?

  • Please improve your question by describing a more concrete problem, including what you've already tried and why that didn't work for you. Open-ended, list-generating questions are always off-topic on Stack Exchange. – Todd A. Jacobs Sep 11 '16 at 23:42
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    That's not actually true though I'm not sure my question fits their definition of a good open ended question. – gman Sep 12 '16 at 1:31
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    Please see /help/dont-ask, which says "To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where…every answer is equally valid" as well as providing other examples of subjective, list-generating questions. Your question, as currently posted, simply doesn't allow for a canonical answer. I won't continue to debate it; it's up to you whether or not you want to improve your question to avoid closure. – Todd A. Jacobs Sep 12 '16 at 17:50
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    Why is the 'team' making a decision? Surely someone has the job which holds the responsiblity for the decision making? – Ewan Sep 12 '16 at 18:57
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    @Ewan why isn't the team making the decision? Command & Control isn't the only way to get work done. Don't you want the people who are best informed and have the most skin in the game making decisions? – RubberDuck Sep 14 '16 at 0:03
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Making a decision and taking action, even if it is not the best choice, is more productive than doing nothing. This is something that the team should understand.

What is the root cause of this decision paralysis? Is there fear of repercussions for making the "wrong" choice? Is there apathy? Without finding it, the problem (or others which are related) may continue.

If this is a reoccurring issue, perhaps asking the team to come to an agreement about how these situations might be resolved in the future; the agreement can always be changed if needed. Perhaps a vote: blind or open.

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It somewhat depends on the decision needed to be made.

As I wrote on my blog, often any decision is better than no decision.

If we're talking about GUI elements or similar
If the team (or whoever has a vote) cannot make up its mind (for whatever reason) and the decision is holding up the schedule, then simply make a decision. Any decision. Flip a coin, if needed.

It will probably be quicker to change the decision at a later date than to have the team spend time on the decision.

If we're talking about design
You don't want to change design - so you need to make a wise decision. The people deciding (voting) need to understand the item being decided and its implications.

Once you have removed all those who don't qualify to make the decision (e.g. lack of technical skills) then you need an open discussion with people presenting the reasons for their decisions.

Then they need to persuade each other why one decision is better than another.

The person chairing the meeting should probably not be a stakeholder; only making sure that the discussion remains technical, and doesn't become a shouting match. ("I say so" and having a louder voice are not reasons to win the arguments.)

If need be, the team may need/want to consult with experts in the field, in order to make the wisest decision.

If nobody really cares what the decision will be, then it becomes like a GUI-type decision. Just make some decision, and go back to work.

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Here's a technique that will push things forward. I'll leave you to judge whether it's appropriate given your team/company/culture.

Talk to the most senior person in your group 1-on-1 and get their opinion. Tell them you're going to present that opinion to the group as the default--and if no one else has any ideas, their plan will be the final decision.

Give the team a deadline to counter this decision, come up with a new plan, object, etc... If no one speaks up or objects, move forward with most senior leader's plan, and take personal responsibility for it. If things go awry, the senior leader can back you up--it was their idea.

Again, this is situational, but it's a technique you can use, and it will move the project forward with a reasonable decision in place, and with backing from someone in senior management.

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Assuming you're in a scrum or kanban team setting or some group of up to 10ish people...

Decider protocol is great, you can google it. Thumbs Up = "yes", flat hand in the middle = "I'm neutral and can go either way", thumbs down = "no, and I have a alternative idea"

Its a nice one because its drives towards an outcome, it doesn't allow people to say no and avoid making the decision outright.

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If decision is for a problem, you can take team to room and list down root-cause of the problem. That will help team to concentrate on root cause and come to conclusion for the problem, which will be one set of decision.

If it is for an approach, you can go with 'Management by Objectives' and make team to explain objective for sitting together to come-up. Decision is to be made to achieve some 'x'. Make to be clear on 'X', ask them to come-up with different possible ways to achieve, list down pros & cons of each approach, weigh them in terms of time/effort, cost and quality. Then, make them to decide on what is the approach. Basically, you would be driving them towards decision tree approach with some kind of Delphi method (I assume your team is kind of SME for taking a decision)

Try with 6 thinking Hats with the team is also another approach. But, you have to educate them and moderate.

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'The Team' should not be making decisions unless you are a cooperative, a political party or a board of directors. In which case, consult your articles of encorporation or whatever to see the prescribed method.

In all other cases there will be someone who holds the budget for the project and thus has the responsiblity of making the call.

'The Team' should make recommendations.

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    Ughh you may want to clarify the methodology under which you are giving this answer. Agile methodologies put a heavy emphasis on team-based decision making on nearly anything that helps deliver value to a customer or defines how the team operates. I'd say your answer is flat out wrong or over-broad. – WBW Sep 12 '16 at 21:59
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    thats just not true. in aglie the stake holder choses the backlog, signs off on the features and aproves the budget. they even set the order in which the tasks will be completed! What does the team decide? – Ewan Sep 13 '16 at 0:14
  • Paint my house painting team! Use these colours, paint the rooms in this order, paint them again if I dont like it amd report progress daily. You can chose rollers or brushes – Ewan Sep 13 '16 at 0:18
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    @Ewan the team decides how and how much. – RubberDuck Sep 14 '16 at 11:54
  • In practice how = use the skill you were hired to use. How much = keep going untill I run out of tasks to give you or money – Ewan Sep 14 '16 at 16:13

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