Seven team decision-making methods

The way a team decides to decide is one of the most important decisions it makes. In the excellent book, “Why Teams Don’t Work” the authors, Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley, identify seven key decision-making methods for teams.

Robbins and Finley put the seven methods in context:

“Though fashion occasionally underscores one or another of these approaches, there is no right or wrong way to decide an issue. The important thing is that the team decide, in advance, what decision-making method will be used. No surprises. If members are apprised of the process, even autocratic methods acquire the consent and blessing of all”.


So if a team is planning to make a major decision it should, wherever possible, discuss and agree on how the decision will be reached (e.g. using one of these 7 methods) BEFORE the decision-making discussion starts. The leader or customer of the particular meeting should introduce the decision which needs to be made and then propose a decision-making method which is then discussed and agreed.

  1. CONSENSUS: Consensus decision-making is where all team members get a chance to air their opinions and must ultimately agree on the outcomes. If any team member does not agree, discussions continue. Compromise must be used so that every team member can agree with and commit to the outcome.
  2. MAJORITY RULE: Majority decision-making is democracy in action. The team votes, majority win. Simple.
  3. MINORITY RULE: Minority decision-making usually takes the form of a subcommittee of a larger team that investigates information and makes recommendations for action.
  4. AVERAGING: Averaging is the epitome of compromise; it is how our esteemed Congress decides: team members haggle, bargain, cajole, and negotiate an intentional middle position. Usually no one is happy with the result except the moderates on the team.
  5. EXPERT: This is simple. If you don’t already have someone in your team find or hire an expert, listen to what they say, and follow their recommendations.
  6. AUTHORITY RULE WITHOUT DISCUSSION: This is where there is usually no room for discussion, as with predetermined decisions handed down from higher authority Moses on Mount Sinai. Trust is often killed with this method when a team leader tries to fool team members into thinking that their opinions about the decision really can affect the decision. Team members know when a team leader is jerking them around.
  7. AUTHORITY RULE WITH DISCUSSION: This method is also known as Participative Decision Making. Under this method, those in the decision-making role make it clear from the onset that the task of decision-making is theirs. Then they join in a lively discussion of the issues; their opinions count just like other team members. When they have heard enough to make an educated decision, they cut off the discussion, make the decision, and then get back to all team members to let them know how their inputs affected their decision. Most team members feel listened to and willing to participate in another team decision using this method.