By , November 7, 2007 6:00 pm

The Collaborative Edge Decision Making Method  

     Hierarchical and collaborative models of decision making both have strengths and weaknesses. Hierarchical models can breed apathy and alienation, and the absenteeism, low productivity, and carelessness which can result. Collaborative models can lead to an inability to reach conclusions and to carry out effective action and can degenerate into power struggles over leadership. The Collaborative Edge Decision Making Method combines the benefits of both collaboration and hierarchy:

1. Benefits of Collaboration

     Collaboration, where people work together as equal colleagues toward a common goal, has the following benefits compared to strict, hierarchical, top-down decision making:

  • (a) The equal hearing of every viewpoint and the contribution of each person’s unique expert knowledge can lead to win/win decisions which are more inclusive and creative;
  • (b) Egalitarian expression of disagreement can address weaknesses, producing decisions that are objectively higher in quality;
  • (c) When participants have a say in decisions affecting them, even when they do not get all of what they want, they experience greater “ownership” of decisions and become more willing and motivated to carry the decisions out;
  • (d) Working together toward a common goal also produces feelings of friendship and collegiality which lead to greater enjoyment in working together and greater commitment to the group and the organization itself.

2. Benefits of Hierarchy

     In most business settings, clear, hierarchical lines of authority and responsibility insure that:

  • (a) Decisions can be made within prescribed time limits;
  • (b) Specialized expertise of individuals can be utilized effectively;
  • (c) An overview of the entire organization’s objectives and projects can be developed by executives, in communication with any advisory Boards and shareholders. This overview can be communicated to managers, who can organize the efforts of work groups toward accomplishing these over-all objectives.
  • (d) “The buck stops here.” Clear lines of responsibility, and the accompanying power and authority needed to take responsibility, are established.

3. Coordinated Collaboration Component

      In pure consensual decision making, a decision is not made until everyone in the group feels able to go along with it. At the very least, dissenting group members have to be willing to say, “I’m not willing to participate in the project that way, but it’s okay with me if you three want to carry it out, “or, “I think there’s a better way to be found, but I’m willing to go along as long as we review the outcome in a month” or some such qualified assent.

     If someone is not able to agree in any way, it is assumed that the decision is flawed, some piece of information needed for problem-solving is missing, or not yet articulated, and the group will benefit from spending more time sitting with the decision until an acceptable solution arises. Committees can be formed to gather more information, and group members can spend time individually or in pairs using Intuitive Focusing to look for innovative solutions.

     However, in many situations within an organization, decisions have to be made on a timetable and passed along to other collaborative teams or up the hierarchy. Using the Coordinated Collaboration approach of the Collaborative Edge Decision Making method, a Coordinator or Project Manager can set time limits for Collaborative Decision Making and be empowered to make final decisions when the time limits are up and take these to other levels.  Coordinated Collaboration allows the benefits of collaboration within the time limits and structured responsibility of hierarchical organization, capitalizing upon the best of both models.

Read the complete article about Collaborative Edge Decision Making, including Hand Outs to use in applying the method immediately at meetings, at and in Spanish at

Dr. Kathy McGuire

Creative Edge Focusing (TM)

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