We've encountered a lot of business owners over the years.
Along the way, we've learned that business owners overwhelmingly prefer to make decisions on their own, without engaging a formal group decision-making process.
But unfortunately, independent decision-making isn't always possible in small business. Sometimes business owners are forced to participate in a group problem solving process, particularly when the process involves investors, strategic partners and other key stakeholders.
Although group decisions can be cumbersome, many business owners discover that the group process results in outcomes that wouldn't have emerged from an independent problem-solving strategy. On the other hand, group decisions can quickly spin out of control and cause divisions within the organization. Here's what you need to know to keep your group decision-making efforts on track.
- Establish the process. In group decision-making, everyone has an opinion about what the process should look like. So the first thing that needs to be addressed is the process the group will use to resolve the problem. The process you choose should include a timeline and should clearly describe how the final decision will be made (e.g. consensus, majority vote, single decision maker, etc.)
- Define parameters. In the worse case scenario, the process can spin wildly out of control as group members pursue a wide range of issues that have little to do with the core problem. To avoid chaos, define the parameters of the decision at the beginning of the process. When the conversation wanders off-course, direct the group back to the initial parameters.
- Drive the process. Every group contains a mix of personalities and problem-solving styles. Business leaders often become frustrated when some members of the group waste time in meaningless conversation or distractions. If necessary, don't hesitate to use your leadership skills to take charge and drive the process forward, especially if it has become bogged down and unproductive.
- Encourage out-of-the-box thinking. However, "driving the process" doesn't mean that you're entitled to steamroll over the process. Good leaders encourage brainstorming and out-of-the-box thinking, as long as it contributes to the overall process.
- Demand outcomes. Even more than individuals, groups often struggle to bring the decision making process to a close. There always seems to be one more possibility, one more consideration, or one more way of approaching the problem. When the group drags its feet, draw attention back to the framework and timelines that were established at the beginning of the process.