Some teams make decisions very quickly.
Surgical teams, for example, never ask, “Who’s administering anesthesia today?” Team members already know who is qualified, and no one else even thinks about taking over unless they have the required education and certifications. Likewise, when a hospital is looking for a new anesthesiologist, they have a clear role they need to fill. The requirements for the job are very specific.
In associations, however, team roles are not always so straightforward, and making decisions can get very complicated. The complexity often depends on the structure of the team and each member’s position and responsibility.
Types of Organizational Teams
Teams that are organized using a top-down, military model are often the most efficient at making decisions. Directions come from the leader with requested input from subordinates. The model works smoothly because one person makes the decision.
Now while the chain-of-command model is efficient, it might not be very satisfying for subordinate members and it might not produce the best solutions either. It might not even produce the best leaders for the matter. The most senior member may also not be the best person to lead every team.
Collaborative models, on the other hand, can produce brilliant new solutions but may be harder to manage. If your association staff normally conducts business in discreet work groups, then assembling a task force to address a specific issue may be uncomfortable at first.
Team Decision-Making Scenario
So let’s try an exercise. Pretend for a moment that you are a consultant brought in to help the following association. How would you suggest they proceed?
This individual membership organization needs more revenue to finance new programs and hasn’t raised its membership fees for the last five years. The association has several thousand members and a fairly formal staffing structure.
Several staff members and members of leadership are aware of the issue but don’t normally work together. Each of them will be instrumental in making a decision about raising the fees. They may also need to discuss other revenue streams, working across silos in stakeholder groups.
- Membership Manager: Will be responsible for administering any fee increase. Has no regular direct contact with the Executive Director or the board. Reports to a senior staff member whose primary duties are in marketing and communication. Knows a fee increase is a best practice but doesn’t have the authority to create a task force.
- Senior Director of Marketing: Supervises the membership manager. Reports to the Executive Director but is junior to the VP of Finance. Is new to the association and is working to solve several large marketing challenges.
- VP of Finance: Has a senior-level perspective of the financial needs throughout the association. Recognizes a dues increase could be an untapped source of funding for several new programs. Has no direct responsibility for either the Membership Manager or the Membership Manager’s boss. Reports to the Executive Director.
- Executive Director: Manages all staff members and is the gatekeeper for the Board of Director’s agenda. A fee increase will require board approval. Has not mentioned raising dues to any direct reports.
- Chair, Board of Directors: Responsible for chairing board meetings. Must approve of a dues increase before it’s presented to the board. Works closely with the Executive Director.
- Chair, Board Finance Committee: Responsible for presenting financial information to the board. Would lead any board discussion about the need for a dues increase or additional revenue streams, and would present any suggested plans to the board for a vote.
How to Structure the Solution
So, how you would structure the solution? The best part is that there is no wrong answer and many right ones.
If you’re used to a military team model, it’s simple: executives at the top of the chain delegate down the chain of command. Information and a plan come back up. The Board of Directors vote and the Membership Manager implements the plan.
But there are other models that allow more collaboration and might be of more use in developing new programs. With collaboration, you create an environment that fosters new, innovative ideas and allows staff members to share possible roadblocks or ways to streamline the solution. You also create staff buy-in, a key to creating positive outcomes. But, you might also create a process that takes forever and generates poor solutions.
The good news is, there’s a middle ground here.
The Keys to Making Great Team Decisions
Your team members need to know what role they play in the decision-making process. Sometimes, two staff members both think they’re responsible for an initiative, but only one of them really is. You need a framework that provides a more unified approach to collaboration that’s rooted in a clear understanding of who’s involved in what decisions – and in what capacity.
At PROPEL, we set you up for success by introducing and implementing the RACI model of decision making in a Quick Action Project. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. Those are the only four decision-making roles there are.
Contact us to learn how you and your team can make better decisions with better outcomes.
Photo by Karolina Kołodziejczak