Joe listened to his team discuss the merits of two approaches to solve the problem they were facing. As he listened it became more and more obvious that they were going to need help making a decision. He knew both approaches were good, he knew all of the team was qualified to weigh in and he knew he did not need to make the decision.
Team members had spent quite a bit of time researching and brainstorming both solutions. One of their highest priority customers had discovered a glitch in their software. The good news was that it was not impacting any other customers. The bad news was that for some reason it was causing problems for this customer every day. They were now completing some of their work manually. Joe’s organization was paying for two temporary workers to perform the manual processing. The customer definitely appreciated this assistance, but was anxious for a permanent solution to be implemented.
Now the team had devised two possible solutions. Each solution was equally likely to be successful, neither solution would disrupt current processing and both took about the same amount of time and effort. Despite the similarities between the solutions, there was enough of a difference in how they approached the problem that team members did not agree on which was best.
Based on this information Joe stepped in and told the team that they would vote. And if a clear majority emerged, that approach would be the solution that they would use. The team agreed.
Joe then asked the team to take a thirty-minute break. During this time he considered how to move forward after the vote. He did not want to move forward with an ‘us versus them’ mentality. Joe created a simple voting ballot. He labeled the approaches ‘Solution A’ and ‘Solution B’. He did not want to personalize this vote by adding the names of team members to the ballot. This was about selecting the right solution, NOT about WHO designed the solution. Each solution had enough of a description so that everyone would know where he or she was placing his or her vote. Although he knew that he could easily collect and tabulate the votes, he purposefully planned a team coffee break for after the vote. He found some fun and short video clips to show during the break.
Joe also gave careful consideration to the solution implementation team. And once he saw that ‘Solution A’ had received the most votes, he made a risky move. He decided to place the person who was the biggest fan of ‘Solution B’ in charge of the solution implementation team. He then carefully populated the team with a mix of approximately half people who favored ‘Solution A’ and half people who favored ‘Solution B’. Their first assignment was to create an implementation strategy and to present it to the rest of the team. EVERY person on the solution implementation team was required to present a piece of the strategy.
Why did Joe put so much effort into the decision-making process? He had a high-performing team. This was a team who worked well together and met challenging goals. A team who could argue, and then break into laughter. This time the team felt a bit more passionate about the issue at hand. The divide seemed a bit deeper than during any of their previous disagreements. Joe knew the importance of rebuilding the team after such a disagreement. He knew that if he wanted them to retain their strength that he needed them to see each other as partners and not as rivals, the sooner the better. Joe wanted his team to be free of strife so that they could continue to support one another and meet the challenges that were surely coming their way.