How to Create a Team Decision Protocol

Outcome: team decision making protocol 
Time needed: 60-90 minutes (possible to do part/all asynchronously)
Tooling: P2 (copy this post) 

Unclear and ambiguous decision-making can really slow a group down. Alternatively, if unsuitable processes are used to make decisions, sub-optimal outcomes may be achieved. This template guides a team through reflecting on decision-making and becoming intentional about their own approach by designing it together.

The structure is adapted from Esther Derby and Diana Larsen’s work on Retrospectives.

1) Set the stage

Take some time to explain the purpose of the conversation and the process to be followed.

  • For example: “We’re here to look for opportunities to simplify how we make decisions as a team. How decisions are made in a team is often tacit knowledge (understood or implied without being stated). Tacit knowledge is difficult to question or improve upon because it’s unspoken. Making invisible processes visible allows us to evaluate the efficacy of our approaches and avoid misunderstandings.”

You may want to do a check in or some other opening activity.

2) How are decisions currently made?

This can be done synchronously or asynchronously. The intention is to surface data about the current decision making landscape so that the new agreement benefits from lessons learned. Give people some time to write down answers to these questions and discuss what comes up:

What kinds/types of decisions does the team typically encounter?

What are some examples of when decision making felt good?

What are some examples of when decision making felt frustrating/slow?

3) How would you like decision to be?

This might be better in a synchronous discussion, as there is likely to be lots of back and forth dialogue as different perspectives are explored and convergence reached.

Take some time to write down where different decisions fall based on the categories below. Once the table has been populated, have a discussion and possibly move some decisions based on the new understandings that are reached.

TEAM DECISION MAKING PROTOCOL

Decide as individuals

  • ie. Working hours

Decide with 1 other team member

  • ie. Merging code

Decide as a team

  • ie. Changing a team process

Lead decides/ makes a final call

  • ie. Taking on a new project

Escalate outside the team (ie. to Division leads)

  • ie. Security incident response

Adapted from Remote:AF and Jesse Lyn Stoner‘s work, as well as how we do things at Automattic.

Note: Examples given are not universal truths and will differ among teams

4) Next steps

Have a brief discussion about things that possibly may need to happen now. This is also a chance to briefly get feedback on the session.

Actions:

  • Example: save the newly created decision protocol on P2.

Feedback: return on time invested

1 (very low)234 – x5 (very high)

Place an X based on where you feel

Read next: How to make decisions in P2