Where shared decision-making goes wrong

Those who are regular readers of my newsletter, will know that I am a strong supporter of shared decision-making in workplaces – where managers allow and encourage team members to make decisions about their work.

Such shared decision-making tends to encourage greater engagement and cooperation with change and more creative solutions to workplace challenges.

But having said that, there are also potential problems with this approach. Following are some of the common challenges, as well as some ideas on possible solutions:

Here team members need to be having an honest discussion with senior management about the need to match participation with authority to make certain decisions. If the buy-in of senior management is not there, managers can minimise frustrations if they make it clear that it is more a process of consultation they are going through. Managers can also make it obvious when they are running with ideas generated by team members.

Consider agreeing on the ground rules for the meeting beforehand and having a strong chair to ensure people stay on track. Let your team know you genuinely value their contribution and that diverse opinions and ideas make for a stronger team and more creative solutions. Consider also making it easier for people to contribute – either through small group work or anonymous surveys.

Here your team needs to be clear about those areas in which flexibility can be shown (such as, the timing and how a workplace change is implemented) and those areas in which they cannot (the actual change itself or a particular policy).

Yes, shared decision-making does have its challenges. And it can be quite frustrating for speedy decision-makers and those managers who feel they need to stay in control. However, the rewards are there – creative solutions, a far more engaged team, and greater cooperation with change.


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