Effective Decisions PDF Print E-mail

December 2006 - The FoCuSeD™ Facilitator eNewsletter

decision making


Effective Decision | Gary Rush Facilitation

Effective Decision-Making is an effective process that provides a means to manage the political issues that arise allowing for a win-win decision.


People want to be involved in decision-making. If a Leader unilaterally makes all the decisions, he or she is telling the people that they aren’t trusted to decide. Collaboration is key.


The first assumption is that the group should be involved in the decision-making process. The following assumptions are the basis for the decision-making process:


  • Consensus-based decisions last the longest and generate the greatest support.
  • Voting is not consensus and majority rule is seldom the best choice for deciding.
  • Pros and cons don’t work in a group. It becomes a game.
  • This is not a linear process – it is iterative up to the end.
  • There are NEVER only 2 choices.
  • There is NEVER only 1 right answer.
  • In the end – everyone must own and support the decision.


A myth that needs to be dispelled is that reaching consensus is more time-consuming than having one person decide. That is a narrow view. It is incorrect. Quality decisions made by groups take less time. Never accept the myth of consensus taking a long time. You can make some decisions quickly without a group – it’s the rework and selling of the idea that adds time. Therefore, the final decision takes longer than developing it with a group through consensus. No one should be the sole decision-maker. Decisions are more effective when they involve the group. Group Decision Making through an effective process works best.

When People Disagree

When people are asked to decide, they often disagree. When people disagree, first, they stop listening and second, they forget what issue they’re deciding. They get caught up in the features of the answers. This causes polarization. People will not say, “I understand where you’re coming from and why you disagree with me. Let me explain what I mean.” A more common reaction is, “You obviously don’t get it! The right answer is …” or some derivation. Effective Decision-Making gets the people back to the initial issue and follows an effective decision making process to reach consensus.


An Effective Process

Groups first diverge. They take and defend differing positions. You get them to converge by bringing them back to a common point. Once at a common point, you help them through controlled divergence – to identify all possibilities. After you get them to see numerous alternatives, step them through a controlled decision-making process that enables them to converge on a solution or solutions.


The closer you move a group to consensus, the greater the commitment to support and implement the decision. You also take advantage of the group – two heads are better than one.


Step-by-Step Process

Use the following step-by-step process when a group hits a snag in deciding. The process is described in a sequential manner, but it is always iterative. A group may jump to consensus – often because they stopped and discussed. If that happens, enjoy it and don’t force a process for the sake of process.


  • Revisit the issue – move group away from “positions”.
  • Identify Objectives – what the group is trying to accomplish.
  • Return to the last point of agreement – find some common ground.
  • Analyze the positions – clarify each position one at a time. This is when active listening helps set up the next step.
  • Listen – actively listen and enable the group to hear each other. Remember, people stop listening when they disagree.
  • Determine the desired outcome – determine which decision-making sub-process is appropriate. Review the Aspects to Consider to help determine which sub-process to use. Note: Consensus is best and what is desirable. However, sometimes you have to allow for other sub-processes:

    • Voting – majority rules.
    • Leader decides – group delegates to a leader.
    • Recommend – we can’t or shouldn’t make the decision.
    • Consensus of the group – Win-Win.

  • Step through the selected sub-process to reach a decision – if not successful, return to the beginning.


Aspects to Consider

Consider the following Aspects in determining the appropriate sub-process:


  • Time – Sometimes time is short and the issue so complex that analyzing the positions may take longer than the time allotted. Assess this in conjunction with one of the other aspects.
  • Experience – How much experience or knowledge do the people have? Do they have the where withal to make the decision? If not, you may have the wrong people and need to inform, educate, or replace them. Preparation is key.
  • Authority – What has the group been delegated to do? If they don’t have the authority, they don’t have the responsibility.
  • Impact – The more important the decision, the more people it affects, or the greater the impact on the organization, the more important it is to reach consensus – it has greater commitment.
  • Number of People – The larger the size of the group, the more difficult it is to reach consensus. It is not impossible, but it takes more time with more people.
  • Environment – Face-to-face is easier for groups to reach consensus. It is more difficult to address tough issues when the people can’t see each other, read body language, or interact with each other.
  • Complexity – The more complex, the more time is required to analyze the positions and find a solution.



Most people understand how to Vote, let a Leader Decide, or Recommend. To reach Consensus, do the following:


  • Generate as many ideas as possible. Use Brainstorming or draw pictures to generate ideas.
  • Discuss the list to ensure clarity and understanding of the ideas.
  • Check to see if the group can decide now:

    • Yes – document the decision.
    • No – use a prioritizing process.

  • After prioritizing, discuss the selected solution and check to see if the group is satisfied with the solution:

    • Yes – document the decision.
    • No – return to Effective Decision-Making step 2 Identify Objectives (criteria needs to be based on the objectives and if they don’t work, the objectives are not agreed to).


This process depends on two elements:


  • Generating many ideas.
  • Developing clear, objective criteria.


This process generates a high quality solution that everyone can commit to. Take the time to do it right – it works well.



Effective decision-making requires time, but it is well worth it. It requires a process to move the group away from their positions to find common ground. Once you find common ground and gain agreement on objectives, it is easier to find a solution that the group can live with. Active listening is required the entire time – people forget to listen when they disagree.


We teach Effective Decision-Making, Active Listening, Prioritizing, Criteria, Brainstorming, Consensus, and other processes in The FoCuSeD™ Facilitator Academy and in our FoCuSeD™ Leader Class. logo



Consensus | Gary Rush Facilitation

I write and talk a lot about Consensus in my books, articles, and in my classes, so I thought that I’d take this opportunity to describe how I’ve always defined Consensus.


For over 20 years now, most of my work has been about bringing groups to Consensus - Win-Win. I would like to clarify some misconceptions. Consensus is NOT Compromise. I view compromise as lose-lose. Compromise is taking two positions, adding them together, and finding the halfway point – essentially ensuring that both sides lose equally. I don’t support compromise.


Consensus is NOT giving in. Some people believe that Consensus is everyone agreeing and walking away happy with the decision. The concern is that Consensus takes a long time and some people suppress their opinions so that the group can agree to get done. This is not Consensus; it is destructive.


Consensus is defined – regarding a decision that you can say, with commitment, “I can support the decision.” That does not mean that you necessarily agree with it, but you can support it and will stand behind it.


That is not always easy and must follow some important guidelines. For Consensus to be real and lasting, the following is important:

  • Everyone must be heard. Active listening is required. The corollary is that everyone must speak up and voice any support or objection.


  • Healthy conflict is crucial to reaching Consensus. Without conflict, you do not reach Consensus. General Patton once said, “If everyone is thinking the same, no one is thinking.” Consensus is not about conformity.


  • The group must feel comfortable to disagree. False harmony is not Consensus. That is an underlying problem. Groups who don’t disagree have a trust problem – they are afraid to disagree because they don’t trust each other.

I don’t agree when people say Consensus takes a long time. I don’t agree when people imply that Consensus means that everyone is happy, holding hands, and singing, “Kum Ba Yah.” Consensus means that you can say, “I can support the decision.” That requires a process that supports trust, everyone speaking up, everyone hearing what is said, the ability to engage in constructive conflict, and the belief that the whole is more important than the parts. The Effective Decision-Making process is about reaching Consensus, Win-Win – not about compromise or giving in. logo