Making better team decisions

In the first months in my new role as product responsible I had more or less weekly meetings with the team responsible for Enterprise Manager and in those meetings we made decisions sometimes. But what happened was that a few months down the road we (including myself) could not remember what exactly we had decided or why. And worse, new discussions then started about what to do. Often motivation to do so was because people from other teams had dropped earlier in the week telling we did things all wrong in their opinion.

And at one point I had enough of forgetting decisions and to keep coming back on decisions. I thought “Dammit, I’ve read Decisive (by Dan and Chip Heath). I should know better than this.”

At one point I came up with this template (which, now that I’ve reviewed Decisive a little, actually doesn’t have a lot to do with it):

Short title
Date <Decision date>
Requirement: <This decision is based on the requirement or rule that ….>
Decision: <What was decided?>
Rationale: <We chose this solution because …>
Other considerations: <We did not choose this other solution because …>
Documentation: <Where can we read more about this? What documentation was created as result?>
Who was involved: < Who required it? Who worked on it? With who did we work on this?>
Review date: <Date when this decision must be reviewed. Could be after standard amount of time, or related to End of Support of a release>

The idea behind this template is that we and others can find back not only what we decided, but also why. And it answers most “but have you thought about…”, or at least as far as we can. There’s also a review date, usually 2 months later.

We’ve used this template for about 6 months now. I’ve jotted most of them down and if used well, the template really makes you think. “Yeah, why did we have to decide this actually? Oh yeah, so and so asked for that script and then we found she didn’t have the privileges and .. so on. Better keep her informed about our decision then”. I also comunicate these decisions to other teams in the department newsletter. If a member from another team asks us “wait a minute, how can you decide this and completely forget about X?”, then at least we know it now and not months or years down the road.

We had some interesting results. For one decision the review date had arrived and I asked “well, how did we do?”. There was some unease. People looking away. It turned out, nobody did what we had decided upon. So we had a little discussion, and the team still decided to do things as planned. The best you can do then is plan the review date another 2 months ahead and check again.

You might take this one step further. If you look well, you see we have 3 out of 4 parts of the Deming circle: Plan, Do, Check, Act. The template helps you plan, of course then you have to do it and check on the review date if things worked out as planned. All that’s left is the “Act” part. But if there’s room for improvement, I’m sure this will lead to a new decision.

Overall the template seems to work. Work better at least than forgetting decisions and why we made them. Our management even started to adapt it. Who knows where it will go? Let me know if you like it.


About Marcel-Jan Krijgsman

Marcel-Jan is de PR-functionaris van de Werkgroep Maan en Planeten. Hij verzorgt ook het nieuws op de Facebook pagina en deze blog.
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