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Master the decision-making process: A successful team's comprehensive guide

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Think of the most successful teams you’ve worked with — what did they have in common? It’s likely they worked well together under a shared vision and team understanding. And they probably made good decisions, seemingly without effort. Effective decision-making is critical when it comes to team and project success. But it requires preparation, confidence, and the right tools.

Here at Atlassian, we use Confluence as a knowledge management tool to support our decision-making processes, from brainstorming to final decision documentation.

The importance of effective decision-making

From projects to planning, making effective decisions takes practice, and sets the foundation for your success. While small, quick decisions may allow some flexibility, big-impact decisions are harder to reverse — so being able to successfully weigh options, risks, and opportunities is a muscle that needs to be flexed and refined.

Regardless of which techniques you choose and how you represent your leadership style, it’s also important to gain buy-in from your whole team and make sure you’ve set up clear processes that you can replicate efficiently in the future.

The four types of decision-making

When it comes to knowing where to begin in your decision-making process, it’s helpful to understand the four types of decision-making and lean into the one that feels most natural and fits the situation at hand. The four types include:

  1. Autocratic: the leader takes control and makes the decisions. Little or no discussion is involved in the decision-making process.
  2. Consensus: the leader remains hands-off and lets the team come to a group consensus where everyone must agree. The group decides unanimously based on their own input and expertise.
  3. Democratic: the leader steps back from the decision and lets the group vote on a decision where the majority leads. Not everyone will agree, but group members agree to comply with the decision.
  4. Consultative: the leader takes advice and opinions from the group and uses that to make a final decision. The leader may take advice or suggestions from the group.

Choosing your decision-making process can be obvious, like an autocratic decision to determine the marketing budget for the year. But when it comes to decisions that make an impact on either the day-to-day or long-term work of our team, you’ll want more input from them. 

Planning an event for a client with a tight deadline and budget, for example, may require some insight from your group that you may not have. You’ll want to make a consensus or consultative approach there so the group expertise is implemented into the final decision and everyone feels comfortable with the work they have to do to get there. 

Maybe your team wants to settle on a specific day of each week to be a designated “meeting-free” day. Your team can debate and collaborate to come to a democratic decision together and comply with it moving forward.

Decision-making techniques, styles, and approaches

Knowing your decision-making style doesn’t preclude you from making informed decisions. While we all have a level of personal and professional intuition to trust, effective decision-making is backed up by analysis, research, and fact. A PwC survey of senior executives found that data-driven organizations are three times more likely to see improvements in decision-making than those who rely less on data.

There are countless decision-making models that drive informed choices, and finding the right technique comes down to your team makeup and your leadership style. Many teams prefer a SWOT analysis, which outlines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the decision to accurately gauge benefits and risks. 

SWOT analysis template screenshot

Use Atlassian’s SWOT analysis template in Confluence 

Steps you should take in the decision-making process

The first step you need to take when making a decision is identifying the problem your team needs to solve. Create a Confluence page where you can visualize the problem and who is responsible for overcoming it. Having the problem clearly spelled out will help ensure everyone understands what decision they need to make and why. What is the impact of the problem? What are your goals that will confirm your solution is a success?

Then, break down the issue. Gather information and data that defines what has caused the problem or is preventing a solution. This can include market research, company data, personal insights, and trending news. Build a table that outlines the risks and benefits of potential solutions to prepare your team ahead of time.

Encourage your team to review that outline and provide feedback early on, so they can identify any missing gaps or obstacles before you flesh out the problem. They may also be able to contribute to your research and provide further insights you didn’t consider.

Evaluate your team’s options and use a framework to make a decision. You may need a group effort or further evaluation, which is where your framework comes into play. You may find that the original framework you proposed — like a SWOT analysis – isn’t thorough enough for the solution you’ll need. Encourage your team to propose the right framework that will help with transparency in the decision and will also make their workload clear.

Once you’ve made the decision, work through project management tools like Trello or Jira Work Management to implement it, test it, and monitor it. Continue to document your progress along the way in Confluence so you can refer to it in the future to replicate or iterate your performance.

Popular decision-making frameworks

DACI: Use this framework to work with a team to come to group decisions together, identifying roles within the process including Driver, Approver, Contributors, and Informed individuals. Use data and background knowledge to help support the decision.

Problem framing: Work with your team to identify problem statements that outline one concise solution to the problem in a digestible and collaborative manner. This helps focus on understanding and defining the problem while you align your team on approach. Then you can assemble a select group of stakeholders to settle on the right decision.

Trade-offs: Sometimes making the right decision means making compromises. What will you trade-off for the benefit of the right decision? Work with your team to identify constraints, blockers, and priorities before you kick off the project so you come prepared with decisions before the obstacles happen.

OKRs: Make your decisions with an objective in mind. OKRs are designed for continuous growth and can function as a “north star” that keeps you on course as you make individual decisions during a project.

Decision-making in Confluence

Regardless of which model you pick, your team can work together to both build and document your decision-making framework within Confluence. We have templates for DACI, SWOT analysis, a design decision template, a voting table, and more

DACI screenshot

Within your template, you can assign responsibilities like an owner, contributors, and approver, and tag them directly within the page. Team members can add comments, share links, and distribute files within the table of options, helping guide your team to valuable resources and making your decisions more informed. Pin this Confluence page to Atlas as a guiding document to inform anyone who takes part in the initiative moving forward.

Then, carry this process documentation forward as a record to share with team members and stakeholders so they can understand the why behind your decisions and support you in the how. The more detailed your documentation, the easier it will be to replicate this successful process in the future.

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