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If you are like most leaders, you struggle with the type of process or leadership approach needed, depending on the decision you are facing. Do you gather input from others, delegate the decision completely, or is it the right time for a unilateral decision? The answer is “it depends,” which so frequently is the case.

A decision-making model can be powerful in identifying the criteria to consider, as well as if, when, and how to delegate decisions to others. One of our favorite models at Evolution Management, Inc., is the Vroom Yetton Model, first presented in Victor H. Vroom and Phillip W. Yetton’s book Leadership and Decision Making in 1973.

Decision making model

Source: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_91.htm

At first glance, the model looks complicated, but when you focus on the seven questions and use your answers to flow through the model, it becomes easier to digest.

Let’s consider an example: You are the new senior leader of a 200-person organization, and you have a number of decisions to be made quickly. However, your employees highly value consensus and have historically been kept outside the room where decisions happen. You would like to help create a more transparent environment where 

employees have input into decisions, and at the same time recognize how much time it can take to collect their input.

How do you balance collaboration, time, and the need for a quality decision? The Vroom Yetton Model uses seven questions to help identify what type of leadership approach is needed. There are five leadership approaches you can take:

  • Autocratic (A1) where you use the information you already have to make the decision.
  • Autocratic (A2) where you consult with your team to gather specific information, and then you make the final decision.
  • Consultative (C1) where you ask for members’ opinions individually, but skip a group discussion, and make the final call.
  • Consultative (C2) is when you pull together a group for a discussion to gather suggestions, but you still make the final decision by yourself.
  • Collaborative (G2) involves working with your team to reach a group consensus, and you primarily are facilitating the group to achieve consensus.

Going back to our example, having a decision-making model will allow you to approach each decision in a way that makes the most sense depending on the situation. You can share the model with your team and managers, helping to build transparency within the organization and building trust with employees that they will be consulted when it is feasible and appropriate.

As you can imagine, the amount of time increases the more Collaborative the leadership style. Taking advantage of a time-limited opportunity may require a leader to make a call quickly.

Perhaps you are preparing to purchase a software program that will facilitate virtual collaboration and project management. As the leader, you have the power to select and purchase a software package, however if it is too clumsy or doesn’t meet employees’ needs then adoption rates likely will be quite low, increasing the risk of company money being wasted. An autocratic leadership approach would not lead to a good decision or solution in this situation.

Following the question tree in the graphic, we might end up with the responses:

  1. Is the quality of the decision important? Yes, this is a significant investment of money and time to train folks.
  2. Is team commitment to the decision important? Yes, if the team isn’t committed and doesn’t use the software, it will waste money.
  3. Do you have enough information to make the decision on your own? Not really, I’d like to understand what features would be most helpful for my employees as they manage their projects.
  4. Is the problem well-structured? No, there are probably an infinite number of factors we should consider in selecting a software package. I’ll need help identifying and prioritizing them.
  5. If you made the decision yourself would the team support it? Not likely with this situation; they will be much more likely to support and commit to using the software if they help design/select it.
  6. Does the team share organizational goals? Yes, we are all committed to supporting our customers and delivering excellent work for them.

This leads us to the G2 leadership style, Collaborative, which means the seventh question isn’t applicable since you are building consensus which minimizes conflict about the final decision. Now you would design a process to gather input, have a team of folks evaluate the options available and recommend a solution.

If you want to build your organization’s capacity in decision-making, you can start with a model like the Vroom Yetton Model and use it to review a recent decision that was made, assessing if another leadership approach might have been more appropriate. You can do this for your own personal leadership development, or support your teams in doing the same and gather the lessons learned to share best practices. Share your favorite decision-making tool or let us know if you conduct this review using the Vroom Yetton Model!