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The Ultimate Guide to Collaborative Decision Making

See how working with others can help you make effective decisions and achieve better business results here!

By Brier Cook  •   April 11, 2023  •   7 min read

Picture this: It’s been a busy quarter at work. As your team’s manager, you’ve recently had to make difficult decisions regarding your team’s strategy and operations. Instead of consulting your direct reports or manager, you decided to make every decision on your own to not disrupt the workflow of others. 

However, not consulting your colleagues has created a disconnect within the team. Your boss is also frustrated that you made decisions about the future without asking for their input. If only you had known how critical collaboration was to the decision-making process! 

Read on to learn about collaborative decision making and why it’s important, examine the advantages and disadvantages of collective decision making, and see how you can make collaborative decisions with Fellow. 

What is collaborative decision making? 

Decision making can be defined as the process by which an individual or team identifies a decision, gathers information, and assesses alternative resolutions. The best decision makers collaborate with other knowledgeable and skilled colleagues to develop solutions to complex business challenges. 

Collaborative decision making means combining input from many stakeholders to make the best decision for a group. In collaborative decision making, the goal is always to reach a consensus. Oftentimes, the solution is selected from a set of a few proposed options. 

Why is collaborative decision making important? 

Collaboration is the cornerstone of successful decision making. Involving multiple stakeholders in the decision-making process can make for better decisions, greater transparency, and increased acceptance of decisions. 

The collaborative decision-making process also promotes teamwork, open communication, and trust within a team. When you tackle difficult challenges as a group, you create efficient workplace processes, develop new and innovative solutions, and increase your overall chances of success. 

Make collaborative decisions

Create official records of collaborative discussions and action items generated during meetings and save time with Fellow’s meeting minutes templates. Try Fellow for free!

Advantages of collaborative decision making

1More effective decisions

It’s simple: More knowledgeable teammates involved at all stages of the decision-making process means better decisions overall. A wide range of ideas on the table will broaden perspectives, leading to well-thought-out solutions. Additionally, decisions that involve multiple experts can mitigate future risks and evaluate possible outcomes before a solution is implemented.

2Better transparency

Transparency at work means having regular open communication between employees and management to discuss matters of business performance, team objectives, and more. Collaborative decision making promotes transparency by including everyone in the process to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings. 

3Improved communication

Collaborative decision making improves team communication by allowing everyone to provide unfiltered feedback, leading to greater buy-in once the group reaches a consensus. Collaborative decisions can help employees and other stakeholders further build and improve work relationships and convey new and accurate information moving forward.

4Increased trust

When there is trust within a team, employees are more likely to feel comfortable taking risks, expressing themselves, and bringing new ideas to the table. Collaborative decision making builds trust within teams by giving colleagues the time and space needed to see each other’s viewpoints. 

Disadvantages of collaborative decision making 

1Risk of groupthink

Groupthink refers to the practice of making decisions as a team in a way that discourages individual responsibility or creativity. For instance, if a public relations professional knows that their teammates love a proposed slogan for a marketing campaign, they may be reluctant to give feedback that the campaign wording could be misinterpreted and deemed controversial by their audience. 

2Time consuming

It can be costly and take a great deal of time to collaborate on every decision. Bringing individuals at different levels together in one place can be unnecessarily challenging and take up precious company resources. For this reason, only include individuals who are crucial to the process in your collaborative decision making. Use our meeting cost calculator to see how much it will cost to bring your team together and determine whether a group session is worth it. 

3Potential for increased conflict

In some instances, it’s best to leave certain individuals out of decisions so your team can remain productive and achieve deadlines. Conflict can arise during the collaborative decision-making process when individual motivations, values, and desires get in the way and slow things down. To mitigate conflict, the team or project lead should set expectations for effective communication before any decision-making process begins. 

4Potential for resistance to change

For collaborative decision making to be successful, there needs to be consensus from many stakeholders. The process can be delayed if some team members don’t buy into the plan that the group wants to settle on. Ensure that all decision makers have similar expectations and interests before working together. 

How to facilitate the collaborative decision-making process

1Assign a facilitator

Start by determining who will facilitate your collaborative decision-making sessions. Often this role is given to the project manager or another teammate leading the file. The role of the facilitator is to plan, manage, and guide the group to reach a consensus. This person should have a good understanding of the issue at hand, be able to discuss ideas and differences in a meaningful way, and be an effective listener and organizer. 

2Identify the problem and its scope

The second step is to clearly define the nature of the problem. At this stage, gather relevant information and conduct any necessary research. Separate facts from opinions, determine where the identified challenge is causing issues in your work, and analyze company policies and procedures that will help or hinder the group’s progress. Once this work is finished, define the problem in clear terms for all involved stakeholders. 

3Research possible solutions

Develop a handful of possible solutions for your team to choose from. Create a value system for solutions that will help you identify whether or not each solution is plausible. For example, if the group strives to improve the design of an existing product, the criteria may be that all solutions need to be cost-effective and sustainable and need to fit within a specified timeframe. 

Remember: You can’t solve problems with the same thinking you used when creating them. Put your creativity to the test at this stage!

4Weigh the pros and cons of each solution

Imagine what it would be like to carry out each possible solution to the end. The group should be able to narrow choices down fairly easily with a bit of thoughtful debate and discussion. The group’s favorite solutions should have a high potential for reaching your goal. Rank each solution based on the value system you developed as a group in step one before making your final decision. 

5Choose the best alternative

At the final stage, work with your group of stakeholders to determine which of the proposed solutions is the best. Create a plan of action to implement the solution moving forward. List the steps the group must follow, prioritize tasks and deadlines, set milestones, and identify resources. You should also consider a backup plan. Ask the group: “If our first solution doesn’t work out, what is our best alternative?” and go from there.  

How to make collaborative decisions with Fellow 

Fellow is your one-stop shop for effective collaborative decision making! 

Use Fellow as a hub to manage your high-performing teams to success. Empower your team to collaborate on tasks big and small with easy-to-use features like: 

  • Meeting agendas: No agenda, no attenda. With Fellow, you and your colleagues can create detailed collaborative meeting agendas for one-on-ones and team meetings so everyone can show up prepared and each meeting follows an organized structure. The group can also record notes within Fellow during each meeting to keep everyone productive and accountable.
Team Meeting Agenda Items
  • Action items: Fellow makes it easy to make decisions about who is doing what by when during each collaborative decision-making session. At the end of each meeting, you and other stakeholders can organize your to-do list within Fellow and begin checking items off. 
  • Tags: Highlight key items and organize content by applying tags. Within a note in Fellow, use the hashtag/pound symbol (#) to apply a tag that will help you find the content in the future. You can view all workspace tags at any time or search your tagged content to keep track of each note, decision, and action item on the go.
  • Templates: We’ve distilled everything you need to know into ready-to-use meeting templates so you don’t have to start from scratch. Try our decision-making meeting agenda template to stimulate group participation and create momentum for the next steps of your project. 

Parting advice

Using an effective decision-making process can help you and your team make more thoughtful and deliberate decisions. Collaborating improves the decision-making process by bringing unique perspectives to the table, creating better quality decisions, and increasing team engagement. 

Unsure how to get started? Begin by establishing clear goals, creating a psychologically safe environment for all stakeholders, and encouraging participation from the beginning. Follow our five steps to facilitate the process and use Fellow to level up your meeting habits. Before you know it, ideas will be flowing and the group will be well on its way to reaching a consensus.

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