The Decision Dynamic

February 16, 2010 -- Sal Silvester

Have you ever stepped back and watched team members respond to a decision?

It’s really an interesting dynamic to watch.

I just watched a group of mid-level managers react to a decision that their management team made - three months ago. There clearly is not commitment amongst this group (once again, these are mid-level managers).

The background - The management team made a strategic decision that impacted everyone within this 75 person company. Somewhere along the decision-making-process-timeline, they thought it would be a good idea to gather input from their employees (novel idea, ha?). So, as a result, they conducted a series of focus groups, gathered employee input, and conducted a follow-up town hall meeting to respond to input gathered during the focus group sessions.

Sounds like a good process right? Unfortunately, the employees "sensed" that the management team had already made the decision prior to conducting the focus groups. So, it should come as no surprise that three months later employees still had concerns. Worst of all, the employees who were grumbling the most were the mid-level managers.

Lessons learned?

1. If your managers aren't on board, your employees aren't either.
2. Involve people early in the process. Not after you have made a decision. If you aren't really interested in asking for your employees' input, then don't ask. And certainly don't cover it up with a reactionary and artificial outreach.
3. It takes more time upfront to gather peoples' ideas, but shorter in the long term because they'll be committed to the decision.
4. People will disagree with the decisions you make. As long as the decisions are legal and ethical AND you valued your employee's input and contributions, it won't matter. On the other hand, if you don't listen, employees won't be commited.
5.  Just because you communicated something once doesn't mean people heard the message you are trying to send. Over communicate and use different channels of communication.
6. Tell people what you know AND, more importantly, what you don't know.

Have you ever stepped back and watched people respond to a decision you made?

You should. It’s really an interesting dynamic to watch.

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