How Much Participation Should We Have to Decide This?

by Augusto Cuginotti

The decision-makers biggest mistake is not understanding the decision-making process they should use in a specific situation. Every decision has different characteristics, and, as a result, other approaches are more appropriate.

Here are some things the decision-maker should take into account when deciding the best decision-making process to use:

  • The level of impact the decision will have
  • The amount of time available to make the decision
  • The number of people involved in the decision
  • The amount of information available
  • The level of risk involved

Once you’ve considered these factors, you can choose the decision-making process best suited to your specific challenge.

While some of those things are obvious, like a highly urgent decision that may not involve many people, others are a bit more subtle. So let’s take a look at participation: how to include people in decision-making processes.

Participation: How many people need to be involved in the decision-making process?

The decision-maker should take into account how much participation is needed from others. In some cases, it may be best to decide on your own, while in others, it may be necessary to involve others in the decision-making process.

A case for more participation

In a world that is always running to the urgent, most decision making that should involve others do not. As a result, the decision is weak, generates lots of biased or is narrow, especially when facing complex problems or decisions that are highly impactful for some or many.

On complex matters, the decision-maker should always involve others in the decision-making process, even if it takes more time. One cannot wait until the issue is urgent but to envision a future solution that the collective can create with sufficient time.

The best way to ensure that you involve the right people in the decision-making process is to talk about it. Talk to some stakeholders, including those impacted by the decision, and get their input on what they think is the best course of action.

Highly strategic decisions benefit from diverse perspectives, especially where the options are unclear and the environment turbulent. Remember – no small group can grasp a complex problem because there are not enough points of view in the room.

A case for more responsibility

Sometimes bringing others to the table is a way to avoid taking responsibility for the decision. A leadership position requires taking some risks, and not always you will be able to have everybody on board: you will choose with the best information, judgement and risk assessment you have at the time and deal with the consequences. That’s part of the job.

I am used to seeing clients who should have been deciding on their own but consider participation as a way to engage others. Don’t do this, at least not for engagement only. People are engaged when they participate, but they are also engaged when they see a clear direction. It depends.

Instead, for decisions that are yours to make, share the decision and, if appropriate, what made you get to it. Then go back to your pool of challenges and find the topics that require participation, even if the final decision is not up to the whole group to make, and invite others appropriately.

Tailor Your Participation

When it comes to decision making, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. One should tailor the decision-making process one uses to the specific challenge at hand. The amount of participation required and the factors to be considered will vary depending on the situation.

Check some resources that present different decision-making formats and explore the level of participation that each one has.