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Different Decision-Making Styles and When to Use Them

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 11/18/2010

Do you think carefully about project decisions? Do you run with the first idea set before you? Perhaps every decision you make must be analyzed to death! What are the various types of decision-making styles, and when should you use them? Jean Scheid takes a look.

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    What's Your Style?

    As the project leader, are your decisions the end all? Do you have absolute rule and expect your decisions to be implemented upon request? Maybe your decision making style is wishy-washy and you just can’t seem to choose the right decision. Perhaps you’re one of the smart managers that allows team and stakeholder involvement in your decisions?

    Whatever your style may be when it comes to making decisions, you do need to wear different hats for different circumstances. Let’s take a look at the various types of decision styles and the best times to use each of them.

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    I Lead, I Rule

    Henry the VIII was Autocratic The autocratic style is a style where you rule, make the decisions, and expect them to be adhered to. Your first thought might be that there is never a good time to use this bossy style, but you would be wrong. If you are faced with much team conflict, especially small group conflict, there are times where you must step in and lead the way. In addition, dealing with a client who wants you and your team to redo everything for free is a great time to be autocratic in your decision making—so use it.

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    What’s Your Opinion?

    If you ask for input from the team, stakeholders, clients, and even upper management, you have more of a collective style of decision making. Does this mean you can’t make a decision without support or approval? Of course not! Use this style on large projects where much input is needed to reach goals and milestones. If you have many stakeholders, both internal and external, the collective style is right for you.

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    Let's Vote On It!

    Lets Take a Vote If you are a manager that requires a vote before making a decision, you are more of a democratic leader. Does this mean you fear making the wrong decision without everyone being in agreement? Absolutely not! Use this style when you need a very quick decision to be made or if a group or team seems to be split on a decision. Voting on a decision in a democratic way allows for everyone to offer input and accept the decision because they did indeed have a chance to vote on it.

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    I Can’t Decide

    Believe it or not, the “I can’t decide” style is really a decision-making style! Called the consensus style, when used, the project manager allows for the team and stakeholders to make the decision and then monitors the decision once it’s made. This style is best used in Agile projects within iterations. If each team offers its total support of the outcome of a sprint and you run with it, often it’s better than analyzing the decision to the point that your team members fail to trust your judgment.

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    I'm Pretty Flexible - The Gumby Style

    Gumby is Very Flexible Remember the old cartoon character Gumby? He was green and flexible and his arms and legs could wind in just about any direction. A flexible decision-making style is probably not the best style you can implement in projects. Because the flexible style is of the “If this doesn’t work, we’ll try that” type of style, attempting to use this style could leave your project falling flat or even failing. Avoid this poor decision-making style!

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    Situational Styles

    Finally, we come to the situational decision-making manager. This in-charge person allows the situations to guide his decisions. For example, “Everyone seems to want to go this way, so why not?” Again, this is not a good way to make decisions, so buck up and be a leader.

    There are many types of decision-making styles and as a manager, you probably use more than one of them—and often. In today’s world of a global workplace, it’s ever important to recognize these styles and implement them as you see fit. Just ensure you are using the right style for the right situation.

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    References

    1. Leadership Management Development Center - http://leadershipmanagement.com/html-files/decision.htm
    2. Strategic Market Segmentation - http://www.strategicmarketsegmentation.com/5-decision-making-styles/

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