Collaborative Decision Making for Successful Implementations
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Collaborative Decision Making for Successful Implementations
by: Sharon Drew Morgen
I’ve read that there are leaders and project managers who prefer not to
collaborate, when engaging in an initiative, because of needs for control. And
decision makers who start their information gathering before fully involving
those who will implement. What sort of success is possible when one source is
driving change and
- may potentially sabotage a project because of their own biases,
- restricts outcomes and creativity to a specific set of possibilities,
- potentially gathers biased or insufficient data from a restricted set of
- risks alienating those involved with the ultimate fulfillment because there’s
- real collaboration
- gathering data from the best set of sources
- consensus and buy-in procedures in place
- understanding the full impact from
a proposed decision
- front-loading for change management (to avoid failed
implementations) we risk falling far short of excellence in our decision making
and subsequent execution.
WHY COLLABORATION IS NECESSARY
To ensure the best data is available to make decisions with, to ensure all risk
issues managed, to ensure consensus throughout the process, we must have these
questions in mind:
- How will we share, collect, and decide on the most appropriate ideas, choices,
and alternatives? How will we know we are working with the most relevant data
- How can a leader avoid prejudicing the process with her own biases?
- How are collaborators chosen to ensure maximum representation? Are some
stakeholders either absent or silent? How can we increase participation?
- How can we recognize if we’re on the path to either a successful outcome, or
the route that sabotages excellence? What markers should we be looking for along
Let me define a few terms (albeit with my own bias):
- Collaboration: when all parties who will be involved in a final solution
have a say in an outcome:
a. to offer and share ideas and concerns to discover
creative solutions agreeable to all;
b. to identify and discern the most
appropriate data to enable the best outcome.
- Decision making: a. weighting, choosing, and choosing from, the most
appropriate range of possibilities whose parameters are agreed to by those
involved; b. understanding and agreeing to a set of variables or decision
I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on
“understanding needs or managing an implementation”) and ‘low collaboration’
(defined as “putting time or control before people and possibility”, and leading
from the top with prepared rules and plans). Since I don’t believe in any sort
of top-down initiative (i.e. ‘low collaboration’) except when keeping a child
safe, and believe there are systems issues that must be taken into
consideration, here’s my rule of thumb: Collaboration is necessary early in the
process to achieve accurate data identification and consensus for any sort of
implementation, decision, project, purchase, or plan that requests people to
take actions not currently employed.
THE STEPS OF COLLABORATION
Here are the steps to excellence in collaborative decision making as I see them:
- Assemble all representative stakeholders to begin discussions. Invite all
folks who will be affected by the proposed change, not just those you see as
obvious. To avoid resistance, have the largest canvas from which to gather data
and inform thinking, and enhance the probability of a successful implementation,
the right people must be part of the project from the beginning. An
international team of Decision Scientists at a global oil company recently told
me that while their weighted decisions are ‘accurate,’ the Implementation Team
has a success rate of 3%. “It’s not our job. We hand them over good data. But
we’re not part of the implementation team. We hear about their failures later.”
- Get buy-in for the goal. Without buy-in we lose possibility, creativity,
time, and ideas that only those on the ground would understand. Consensus is
vital for all who will touch the solution (even if a representative of a larger
group lends their voice) or some who seem on board may end up disaffected and
unconsciously sabotage the process later.
- Establish all system specifics: What will change? Who will manage it? What
levels of participation, disruption, job alterations, etc. will occur and how it
be handled? What are the risks? And how will you know the best decision factors
to manage all this? It’s vital to meld this knowledge into the decision making
process right up front.
- Specify stages to monitor process and problems. By now you’ll have a good
idea of the pluses and minuses. Make a plan that specifies the outcomes and
probable fallout from each stage and publish it for feedback. Otherwise, you
won’t know if or where you’ve gone wrong until too late.
- Announce the issues publicly. Publish the high-level goal, the possible
change issues and what would be effected, and the potential outcomes/fallout.
Make sure it’s transparent, and you’re managing expectations well in advance.
This will uncover folks you might have missed (for information gathering and
buy-in), new ideas you hadn’t considered, and resisters.
- Time: Give everyone time to discuss, think, consider personal options, and
speak with colleagues and bosses. Create an idea collection process – maybe an
online community board where voices are expressed – that gets reports back to
the stakeholder team.
- Stakeholder’s planning meeting. By now you’ll know who and what must be
included. Make sure to include resisters - they bring interesting ideas and
thinking that others haven’t considered. It’s been proven that even resisters
are more compliant when they feel heard.
- Meet to vote on final plans. Include steps for each stage of change, and
agree on handling opposition and disruption.
- Decision team to begin gathering data. Now that the full set of decision
issues and people/ideas/outcomes are recognized and agreed to, the Decision
Making team is good to go. They’ll end up with a solid data set that will
address the optimal solution that will be implemented without resistance.
- Have meetings at each specified stage during implementations. Include folks
on the ground to weigh in.
These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’
if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I
recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted
the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without
any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they
created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have
preferred to spend more time following the steps above.
Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive
collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary
for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not
collaborating. And then do the math.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation® - a change
management model that includes learning how to Listen for Systems, formulating
Facilitative Questions, and understanding the steps of systemic change. For
those of you wishing to learn more, take a look at the program syllabus. Please
visit www.dirtylittlesecrets.com and read the two free chapters. Consider
reading it with the companion ebook Buying Facilitation®
Sharon Drew is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling With
Integrity, as well as 6 other books on helping buyers buy. She is also the
author of the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard?
Sharon Drew keynotes, trains and coaches sales teams to help them unlock
situations that are stalled, and teaches teams how to present and prospect by
facilitating the complete buying decision process. She delivers keynotes at
annual sales conferences globally. Sharon Drew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
512 771 1117
Contributor: Sharon Drew Morgen
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