Do You Need Your Team to Make Decisions?

An Excerpt with 3 Decision-Making Models

I’m delighted to be bringing you a never-seen-before extract from Edoardo Binda Zane’s book, Effective Decision-Making. In this article, he covers 3 decision-making models that you can use to decide if you need to involve your team or not when making decisions about your project (or in any other area of business). Edoardo, over to you…

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to decision-making and leadership: the people approach and the task approach. The former favors cooperation and team spirit as the core for success. The latter believes that getting your tasks done is the key to it.

No need to get into the discussion as of now: this has to do more with personal approaches to leadership and that is a different area of study. My point here is to show that the situation is not as black or white as one might think.

Often managers are torn between involving their people (stronger spirit, cohesion) and excluding them (more efficient time management).

Fortunately, there are three tools at our disposal. Each one deals with exactly the same problem but comes from a slightly different perspective. There is no better or worse one, it all very much depends on how well your team fits the model’s structure and what characteristics you want to focus on.

Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model of Leadership

Decision tree for decision making
Decision-Making Models. Edoardo Binda Zane

The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model of Leadership (Vroom at al., 1973) answers this question: “Considering all the elements I have at my disposal, to what extent and how should I involve my team in a decision in this specific case?”

Your decision style and team involvement will be one of three.

  1. Autocratic: You make a decision alone
  2. Consultative: You involve your team, but you decide.
  3. Group: You involve your team and make a decision with them

For any decision, start by answering these questions:

Quality Requirement (QR):

How important is the technical quality of the decision? High/Low

Commitment Requirement (CR):

How important is subordinate commitment to the decision? High/Low

Leader's Information (LI):

Do you (the leader) have sufficient information to make a high-quality decision on your own? Yes/No

Problem Structure (ST):

Is the problem well structured (e.g., defined, clear, organized, lend itself to solution, time limited, etc.)? Yes/No

Commitment Probability (CP):

If you were to make the decision by yourself, is it reasonably certain that your subordinates would be committed to the decision? Yes/No

Goal Congruence (GC):

Do subordinates share the organizational goals to be attained in solving the problem? Yes/No

Subordinate conflict (CO):

Is conflict among subordinates over preferred solutions likely? Yes/No

Subordinate information (SI):

Do subordinates have sufficient information to make a high-quality decision? Yes/No

Once you are done, follow the path given by your answers on the decision tree in the picture.

Five Decision-Making Styles

The result is the decision-making style you should adopt in that specific situation.

As you can see, there are five:

  • AI – Autocratic I: You take the decision alone with the information you have at hand
  • AII – Autocratic II: You take the decision alone with additional information you obtained from the team.
  • CI – Consultative I: You ask team members individually for input and opinions on the issue. You decide alone.
  • CII – Consultative II: You ask team members collectively for input and opinions on the issue. You decide alone.
  • GII – Group II: You and the group meet to decide. The group decides and you may not overrule that decision.

The great thing about this model is that it can be used on a case-by-case basis, and rapidly, to find what’s best for each individual situation.

Of course, what decision you make is a whole different issue.

That is to say, this model does not tell you what decision to make, but only how to make it.

Read Next: How To Negotiate Like a Pro

The model gives you a framework to create the best environment for a decision and allows you to skip an assessment phase before making a decision that would otherwise take days or weeks

On the other hand, critics say this decision model may be too general for some organizations, and it might not work well in large groups.

The only time you need to be careful is if you end up with your decision-making style being GII. Almost automatically you’ll end up with brainstorming – make sure you are aware of brainstorming’s flaws if you go for it, or just go directly to a Nominal Group Technique.

The Hoy Tarter Model

The Hoy Tarter Model of Decision Making (Hoy et. al., 2007) was developed with shared decision making for the school system in mind, but can be repurposed for businesses and organizations. Its aim is to inform you if and to what extent it’s a good idea to involve your team in making a decision based on the team’s interest and expertise in the topic.

The first step of this model is a 4-quadrant matrix, measuring the personal stake and the expertise of the team in the matrix to determine their zone of acceptance (ZA - i.e. whether they accept being excluded from the decision).

  • High expertise/High personal stake: Outside ZA (Involve)
  • High expertise/Low personal stake: Marginal with expertise (Occasionally include)
  • Low expertise/High personal stake: Marginal with stake (Occasionally include)
  • Low expertise/Low personal stake: Inside ZA (Exclude)

Each level of involvement (quadrant) corresponds to one decision-making style and a role for the coordinator and for the team members,

The only exception is the case of high expertise and high personal stake. In that situation, you need to first ask yourself “how much do I trust my team’s commitment to our goals?”

Depending on your answer, they will be more or less involved. Have a look at the picture to see how this affects your decision-making style.

The 4 Roles

The important part here is not so much to describe the situation but to understand how roles change in each one. Let’s take a look:

Democratic: you are either an integrator or a parliamentarian, in the first case you bring together different points of view to achieve consensus, in the second you facilitate discussion to get to a majority vote.

Conflictual / Stakeholder: you are an educator, you explain issues to make sure the team will accept decisions.

Expert: you are a solicitor, you request advice to your team to improve the quality of the decision.

Noncollaborative: you are a director, you make a decision on your own to maximize efficiency.

The Hersey-Blanchard Model

The Hersey-Blanchard Model actually refers to the “Situational Leadership” style – i.e. “how to lead your team” and not “how to make decisions”.

Leading your team is also making the right decisions, though, and this Model allows you to do exactly that. The only step you need to take care of beforehand is to assess correctly your team’s level of Maturity. Based on that, you will adapt your leadership style, which you could read as “how much you need to involve your team when making decisions to make sure they grow in your organization.”

Take a look at your options.

Maturity Level 1 – Low Skills, Low Confidence in their Ability, no will to work or take responsibility. Requires Leadership Style A – Telling: The leader informs the follower of the task at hand, giving him all information and details on how to finish it.

Maturity Level 2 – Low Skills, Low Confidence in their Ability, no will to take full responsibility, but willing to “give it a try”. Requires Leadership Style B – Selling: In addition to doing the same as in Telling, the leader communicates with followers to have them willing to be on board.

Maturity Level 3 – High Skills, still Low Confidence in their Ability, willing to work and to take responsibility. Requires Leadership Style C – Participating: The leader provides less direction and focuses on building a relationship and on sharing responsibility for the success of the task.

Maturity Level 4 – High Skills, High Confidence in their Ability, willing to work and to take responsibility. Requires Leadership Style D – Delegating: The leader entrusts the follower with full responsibility. May still monitor the performance but can’t intervene.

Indeed, this is more leadership than decision making, but there’s some value for us there: being a better leader also means being able to make decisions at the right level, and this model can help you precisely do that.

All in all, I think this model can help your decision making, but again, it can’t be applied just when you need it, you need to build it into your being a leader.

As you can see your style needs to change depending on those variables. And again, this is not just a tool to decide whether you want to involve your team or not: it’s a way to help your team grow and be motivated over time. Precisely for this last reason, though, you need to make sure that you consistently apply it to everyone in your organization, and not as a one-off thing.

References

Victor H. Vroom, Philip W. Yetton: Leadership and Decision-Making (1973)

Wayne K. Hoy, Michael F. DiPaola: Essential Ideas for the Reform of American Schools (2007)

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. Management of Organizational Behavior (1977)

About the Author

Edoardo Binda Zane
Edoardo Binda Zane. Edoardo Binda Zane

Read more about Edoardo Binda Zane as an author and leadership expert on his bio page.