Being a self-organizing company, we approach decision-making at ET Group in ways that empower everyone to make decisions on behalf of the whole team. The more we are each involved in making decisions, the more we feel we belong and contribute to the team.
This doesn’t mean that we always follow a democratic process. We choose the appropriate method for the type of decision being made. At times Autocratic decisions--decisions made by one person--make the most sense. These are usually time-sensitive decisions that fall within the scope of one’s own role and don’t impact other people. For example: A project manager needs to expedite an equipment shipment in order to maintain the project schedule and there is an additional cost. An immediate decision is required, so they choose to make the decision without consulting anyone else.
The following diagram provides an overview of how decisions get made at ET Group. Although the process is outlined as linear, it is often more fluid and iterative.
Decision making begins when one of us notices a problem or opportunity that might need attention. Once we’ve taken notice, we need to make our first decision by answering the question: Is this problem or opportunity worth pursuing? We have three choices:
Yes: I believe pursuing this problem or opportunity is important to me and/or ET Group as a whole.
➔ Next Step: Continue to step 2
No: Although this problem or opportunity captured my attention, I don’t believe it’s important enough to me or ET Group to pursue at this time. I can revisit again in the future.
➔ Next Step: Let it rest by choosing not to pursue it nor complain about it.
Not Sure: I have an inkling but am not sure if this problem or opportunity is or is not worth pursuing. ➔ Next Step: Leverage the collective intelligence of the broader ET Group team and seek advice from others, then move to Yes or No.
If a problem or opportunity is worth pursuing, we need to determine who is best to steward it through to a decision. Problems or opportunities usually fall into one of three buckets.
Bucket #1: The problem or opportunity is directly related to my role and area of expertise.
➔ Next Step: I move into decision-making mode as the primary decision maker.
Bucket #2: The problem or opportunity falls within the realm of someone else’s role and area of expertise.
➔ Next Step: I am responsible for bringing the problem or opportunity to the attention of the individual in the appropriate role or with the appropriate level of expertise. It is then up to that individual to decide: Is this problem or opportunity worth pursuing?
Bucket #3: The problem or opportunity is broader than any one person’s role or area of expertise, or I’m unclear on how to proceed.
➔ Next Step: I am responsible for bringing the problem or opportunity to the attention of a Super Circle member and requesting it gets raised as a Hot Topic at the next Super Circle Tactical Meeting so a steward can be identified. Dirk, the Super Circle Lead Link, is responsible for identifying and engaging a steward if an obvious choice does not otherwise emerge.
In choosing a decision steward, we look for individuals who have:
Proximity or Perspective: They are well acquainted with the context, day-to-day details, and big picture; or have a helpful external perspective.
Experience: They have experience stewarding similar decisions resulting in successful outcomes.
Wisdom: They have stewarded good decisions in other areas and are trusted. Expertise: They have relevant expertise related to the decision being made.
When decisions are being made not everyone needs to participate. Two questions that guide us are:
Is this a decision I need to be part of? (Being part of a decision where we want but don’t need to be involved can slow down or stall decision-making)
Can I live with the outcome if I don’t participate?
Once a decision steward is identified, that individual chooses the best decision-making approach by assessing the impact, risk and duration of the decision.
Will the decision affect the work or behavior of others? Examples of these bigger decisions include changing team practices, making system changes or impacting others’ daily routines. Smaller or more isolated decision examples include isolated process changes, choosing a vendor, or vacation scheduling.
The two main decision-making approaches we use are (1) the Advice Process, and (2) a sensing process ending in Generative Decision Making (GDM).