6 Techniques for Group Decision Making

Help your team move forward.

Published on

Around 3 minutes to read

I think the best work comes from a team working tightly together. But team dynamics bring challenges, one of which is how to make decisions together.

Here are 3 common and 3 not-so-common techniques for moving forward as a group.

1. Majority wins

Probably the most common way that teams make decisions is to take a vote. For example, you might show your team 2 designs in a critique and then show stakeholders which version most team members think is best. This approach usually works well enough and feels inclusive of all participants. The biggest downsides are that it can be slow or you might end up with a tie if you have an even number of people.

Bonus tip: sway the results of the majority wins technique by using The McDonald’s Theory, where you break the ice with the worst possible idea, and watch people come up with better ideas to ward off the bad ones.

2. Most urgent

Sometimes, urgency makes it easier to know what to do next. If you have a looming deadline or a glaring customer support bug to squash, it’s often prudent to do this before anything else.

3. Seniority

Bosses and managers can be both a blessing and a curse, but one advantage is they’ll sometimes tell you what to do. You might not like what they’re telling you, but at least it’s clear.

4. The Sliding Scale of Giving a F*ck

Design leader Cap Watkins wrote The Sliding Scale of Giving a F*ck a few years ago, and I’ve integrated it into my decision-making process with teams ever since. Here’s how it works: when there are 2 or more conflicting opinions, ask how strongly people feel about their opinions on a scale of 1 to 10. Then go with the opinion of the person who feels the strongest. As Cap mentions:

Having an internal barometer for what's important and what's less critical is incredibly useful for helping others trust your responses to ideas and proposals… If you can let go of the things that don't matter so much to you directly, you can build currency with others and earn their trust when you do wind up pushing back.

5. Project Champions

At the start of a project, elect a project champion, someone you know cares a little more than everyone else and will help bring the project to a high-quality completion. Officially elect this person to make the major decisions on the project and especially act as the tie breaker when there’s an impasse.

A few years ago, I worked on a project for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The junior designer on our team was a huge UFC, so we elected him to be project champion, realizing that he probably cared about this project a little more than the rest of us did.

Electing a project champion has a few benefits:

6. Take Turns

At the beginning of the project, decide that everyone on the team gets a week where they’re the primary decision maker. Again, this helps flatten any power dynamics and/or hurt feelings that would have existed on the team otherwise. Also, by picking a short timeframe, people don’t mind living with decision as much as they know that it may change in a week when someone else is in charge.

What else?

What techniques have you used to help your teams move forward? Reply and let me know.

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