The number one objection I hear when suggesting that people be more inclusive during decision making is that it takes too long.
It can take too long, but doesn’t have to. It depends on the time span you are measuring. Let me explain.
Imagine you are the new supervisor of a 10-person work group. On any given day there are four activities that need to be staffed. For years the previous supervisor started each shift by making daily assignments. The assignment strategy was to mix it up. That way every person would know how to do every job.
With a couple months under your belt, you’ve started to notice that some people perform much better on certain activities than on others. You are thinking about making assignments more or less permanent to take full advantage of these performance differences. Should you simply announce the new plan or involve everyone in the decision? You really want to go with the former because it will be much quicker; or will it? Let’s examine how the two options would likely work out.
- Option A: You’ve been thinking about it. You know what you want to do. Announce it to the team. Done. From start to finish this is a relatively short process.
- Option B: You introduce your ideas to the group. Together you discuss it. Some like the idea. Others don’t. You give them time to think about it. You talk about it some more. Make a few modifications, and eventually everyone agrees. From start to finish this is a relatively long process.
If time is your concern, Option A is the clear winner, right?
Not so fast. In both cases the place you start the clock is clear. But where do you stop it? If you think it is when the decision is known, then Option A does win. But that’s not the important end point. Instead, it should be when the decision is fully implemented and working well. If you stop the time at this point, the winner usually changes. Here’s why.
In Option A, you make a really quick decision, but people don’t like it. They weren’t asked for their opinions and don’t think it’s the best approach. While you can force them to do the new assignments, you won’t get the better productivity that you had hoped for because your employees are showing you that they have some control too. Foot dragging, sabotage, low morale and every imaginable bad reaction leads to a long time before you can eventually stop the clock and say that the plan has been successful implemented. And in some cases that end point never arrives.
In Option B, there is more time in decision making, but once you sort things out, full implementation happens much more quickly. Why? Because people had their say. They are bought into the solution, and want to make it work. It is, after all, their solution.
Working through tough decisions as a group doesn’t necessarily take more time, especially if you measure the right end point.