Better Team Decision-Making

by Dr. Rob Sheehan


We all want to make better decisions in teams.

Here is some new research with on how to do this.

[based on an article from Harvard Business Review]

  • Small Teams are Better for Important Decisions:

Research from this article suggests that teams of seven or more are more susceptible to confirmation bias.  They suggest teams of three – five for important decisions.  (This does not mean that you cannot ask for input from others ahead of time.)

  • Choose a Heterogeneous Group:

Groups with different skills, backgrounds, and viewpoints will perform better on decisions.  Caveat – if you want a team to perform a repetitive task (vs make a decision) a homogeneous group of experts on that task will typically perform better.

  • Appoint a Strategic Dissenter:

Appoint a different person every meeting to bring up the downside of each idea discussed: “If this goes wrong, what are going to be the most likely reasons for that?”

  • Collect Opinions Independently:

Give assignments ahead of time and ask people to bring their already formed ideas.  You could even create an anonymous shared doc where no one sees what others have written until they post.  You could even do anonymous assessments of ideas before you actually meet.

  • Provide a Safe Space to Speak Up:

Constructive Conflict needs to be encouraged and done respectfully.  If you do this well, then you won’t need the Strategic Dissenters so much.

  • Don’t Over-Rely on Experts:

Ask experts to provide input into the process, but don’t necessarily make them part of the decision-making group.  They tend to bias the process.

  • Share Collective Responsibility:

Everyone needs to own the decision and this needs to be communicated once the decision is made.  Make sure that this is agreed upon at the outset.

Leading a team through an effective decision-making process  is one of the most important roles of a leader.  

Use these ideas to create an even higher performing team.

Ideas for this blog taken from: Emmerling, T. & Rooders, D.  “7 Strategies for Better Group Decision-Making,” Harvard Business Review online, September 22, 2020.