Does decision making by whole team cost more time? – PolyU question

One of the questions asked by PolyU students is:


Let me start with what it means to make a decision. By the way, in english it is more correct to say: “We make a decision!” instead of “We take a decision” like many often say. I’m not saying this to be overly precise about proper use of english, but to emphasise the process aspect of decisions. Having a decision should always be less relevant than the path before and after decision is made.

Later in your first job, you will find out that some managers make decisions much faster than any team could have. At the same time, these decisions are not really good. You don’t need to be a manager to make 100 decisions in one day. The challenge is to make well-educated decisions. For this, both manager or team need information and experience. A group of people has simply more knowledge than just one manager. Also, a one person making a decision tends to have tunneled vision. There is nobody who will say: “So, what if you are wrong?” or “What are the other options even if this one seems so right?”.

So, the issue here is not really who makes better decisions. It is rather that group of people have different opinions, which complicates the process. They obviously tend to disagree with each other. That costs time. Is this bad? It depends. Let us not forget again, it is decision making process which is important, and less the end-result. So, in case of a group of people, the challenge is to have them exchange arguments in creative mode where everyone first listens to others before judging or dismissing proposals. Actually, the judgement part is postponed as much as possible and separated from creative part where everyone learns from others. If the process is creative, the end-result will be much better than having only one person make a decision. This creative mode is also characterised with presentation of factual arguments instead of only opinions. Giving opinions and making assumptions is not bad, but it should always be subordinate to proven arguments. Also, group of people should be aware of their knowledge limitations, and be humble to admit that even they as a group don’t have enough knowledge. This is often invisible cause of disagreement.

Another challenge are all kinds of egocentric behaviours. Some team members want to prove to others they are always right, and others are very silent because they are afraid to offend someone and especially if other is higher in ranking. Both are just as bad.

Nevertheless, all these challenges are very much worth spending time on. They are definitely solvable. If we consider decision making as a process, than a team makes better decisions and faster than a single manager.

We should also not forget the process after a decision is made. One of the greatest challenges managers today have is convincing others that decision they made is a good one. I’ve seen many managers spending months in this process and it is not pleasant. If this manager at least has involved his workers in decision making process from the start, than whole process would likely take much less time. This problem is very visible in organisations with highly educated workers. People naturally tend to disagree with something simply because they were not involved.

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