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Culture Change Initiative: Decision-Making

Summary of Research

Decision Making and Empowerment - Research Findings October 2014

Working in Groups:
The group leader does not have to make every decision; in fact they shouldn’t. They should delegate. If there is
someone who is an expert in their field, they can often be given the responsibility for making decisions in the
area. The subject should be discussed by everyone beforehand, but in the end the expert decides. As with all
brilliant decisions, the decision should be as flexible as possible.
Different people on the team should play different roles, depending on their temperament and skill. Here is one
model for a large team:

 Shaper – the leader

 Coordinator – keeps the personal balance of the team (the shaper may sometime offend and override

quieter members of the group)

 Plant – generator of ideas

 Resource investigator – finds out new opportunities and information

 Company worker – is familiar with organizational context in which the decision is being made and will

ensure it has a smooth transition to general acceptance

 Monitor-evaluator – carefully evaluates options

 Team worker – like the coordinator, unruffles feathers if egos have run wild

 Completer-finisher – ensures that the decision covers all options and is implemented in detail

 Specialist – subject matter expert.

Smaller team (should have at least one person to play each of these roles):

 Dreamer – has the vision and comes up with ideas

 Realist – puts the ideas into practice

 Critic – positive critic not a spoiler, who looks for problems so they can be met head on.

Getting down to work:

 Determine which is the best decision process (or processes) to use in different situations.

 Develop strategies for making decisions in complex or uncertain situations.

 From the start, be clear about how different decisions should be made, who should be making those

decisions, and specifically, who will be making a particular decision.

 Create healthy dialog and debate to generate alternatives and look at a decision from different angles.

Encourage critical thinking and information sharing.

 Best decisions are those based on the best available information. Some level of consensus must be

reached. Consensus consists not of being in total agreement as to the solution, but of a high level of

commitment to the chosen course of action and a strong shared understanding of the rationale for the


 Learn from decision making. Periodically review decisions that have been made and discuss where

successes and failures have occurred. If a new initiative failed was it because key information was not

shared or a particular idea was not considered due to a preconceived idea?

Eight Disciplines of Decision Acumen:
1. Frame the decision – it determines the alternatives we consider and the way we evaluate them.
 2. Who has the authority to make the decision?
 3. Balance reason and intuition
 4. Create dialog and debate
 5. Embrace and manage uncertainty
 6. Disturb stability 7. Heighten self- awareness
 8. Learn from experience.

 Cognitive Traps to Decision Making
 1. Frame Blindness – dealing with a narrow version of the problem that is presented – answering only the
 question that is presented or solving just the problem as stated.
 2. Plunging in – beginning to gather information and reach conclusions without first taking a few minutes to
 think about the crux of the issue you’re facing or to think through how you believe decisions like this one
 should be made.
 3. False Analogy – applying a process, logic or experience from a previous decision that is not fully relevant
 to the current decision.
 4. Shortsighted Shortcuts – relying too much on “rules of thumb” and utilizing the most readily accessible
 information rather than pursuing the most valid Information.
 5. Groupthink – when the social pressures for conformity and cohesion in a group override the group’s ability
 to engage in independent thinking and critical examination.
 6. Shooting from the Hip- believing you can keep straight in your head all the information you’ve discovered,
 and therefore “winging it” rather than following a systematic procedure when making the final choice.
 7. Not keeping Track-assuming that experience will make its lessons available automatically, and therefore
 failing to keep systematic records to track the results of your decisions and failing to analyze these results
 in ways that reveal their key lessons.
 8. Overconfidence – being overconfident in our personal judgments or overly optimistic about outcomes.
 9. Status Quo – Tendency to perpetuate the status quo and maintain things as they are, even when it may be
 significantly less than optimal.
 10. Self Interest/Attachment – when the interests or attachments of a decision-maker are in conflict with
 those of other stakeholders and distort the decision outcome.
 11. Fooling yourself about Feedback-failing to interpret the evidence from past outcomes for what it really
 says, either because you are protecting your ego or because you are tricked by hindsight.
 12. Group Failure-assuming that with many smart people involved, good choices will follow automatically, and
 therefore failing to manage the group decision-making process.

Three Key Concepts for Steering the Process of Empowerment in Organizations:
 1. Sharing information with everyone
 2. Creating autonomy through boundaries. The boundaries in a culture of empowerment take the form of
 vision statements, collaborative goals, and partnerships. Within the ranges set by those boundaries,
 team members can determine what to do and how to do it. As the empowerment process unfolds, the
 range of structures can widen and deepen to allow people greater degrees of control and responsibility.
 3. Teams become the hierarchy – replacing the old hierarchy’s purpose and functions with self-directed

Empowerment Action Plan
1. Sharing information with everyone
 Help people to understand the need for change
 Ask what information you would want as an employee
 List information people have or may need
 Locate the relevant information
 Start small
 Share good and bad information
 Share the same information that management has Use a variety of means to share information
 Use information to make people accountable
 View mistakes positively
2. Creating autonomy through boundaries
 Recognize the hierarchy mindset – boundaries limit action and responsibility
 Define boundaries to clarify what people can and must do
 Define desired responsibilities
 Clarify decisions employees will and will not have to make
 Explain the organization’s vision and values
 Set clear performance goals for people
 Clarify priorities
 Teach managers to be coaches
 Teach decision-making skills
 Teach problem solving skills
3. Let teams become the hierarchy
 Understand that teams can do more than individuals
 Do not expect too much success too early
 Teach team skills to managers and staff
 Teach consensus decision making
 Teach team communication skills
 Teach how to conduct team meetings
 Help teams see small successes
 Teach team members to hold each other accountable
 Hold team information sharing meetings
 Give teams small decisions to make
 Begin to hold teams accountable
 Share issues and involve teams in solutions
For management, building a culture of empowerment requires:
 Listening
 Considering
 Sharing and involvement
 Resolving conflicts
 Building relationships and supporting personal development
 Developing a positive attitude
 Providing leadership

8 Tips for Empowering Employees
1. Foster Open Communication
2. Reward Self-Improvement
3. Encourage Safe Failure
4. Provide Plenty of Context
5. Clearly Define Roles
6. Require Accountability
7. Support Their Independence
8. Appreciate Their Efforts


Belbin,R. Meredith. Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail, (London: Heinemann, 1981).
Blanchard, K; Carlos, J; Randolph, A. Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute (San Francisco: Benet-Koehler,
Hoch, Stephen, Kunreuther; Howard, Gunther, Robert (eds). Wharton on Making Decisions (New York: John
Wiley & Sons, 2001).
Russo, J. Edward; Schoemaker, Paul. Decision Traps: Ten Barriers to Brilliant Decision Making and How to
Overcome Them (New York: Doubleday, 1989).
Steinhouse, Robbie. Brilliant Decision Making (Great Britain: Prentice Hall, 2010).