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Working in a multicultural environment brings its lot of challenges. One can even be puzzled as to what to expect in terms of decision-making process.

Decision-making may include strategic, plotted, organizational, operating, personal, planned, programmed, and non-programmed decisions.

There is what is said at a company level versus at a department and at a team level. Each of these levels can have a different preferred way when it comes to making decisions.

In addition, it can greatly vary between departments depending on the type of leaders you have, their experiences, and of course, their cultural background.

I got inspired to write this article after reading the Culture Map by Erin Meyer. If you have not read this book I highly recommend you to run for, even more if you are working in a multicultural environment.

Reading the chapter about decision-making, I could not help but to think about the different organizations I worked for.

I came up with a really quick test to get an idea on how an organization makes its decision.

What is the type of decision-making we use?

Let’s say the manager of the team has an idea to improve a process, when she communicates it to your team, what do you expect the team members’ reaction to be?

  1. Challenge the idea, add feedback
  2. Agreement to the idea

An offsite for the team is being prepared, when do they receive the agenda?

  1. Few days before for feedback & adjustments
  2. The day before as an informative way

When a team-member has an idea to implement inside the team:

  1. She circulates it among the members for buy-in, feedback and consensus?
  2. She rather escalates it to the manager for buy-in and implementation?

When a decision needs to be taken:

  1. The entire team agrees on the decision including the manager as one team member
  2. The manager of the team may listen to everyone but has the final word

One more question for your own self.

When there are long team conversations about some matter, process, where do you find yourself thinking most of the time?

  1. Not a problem, you are actively participating into the team’s decision, weighing all pros & cons. Better to have a good decision and to stick to it.
  2. Thinking “Please, make someone takes a decision, let’s just try & see and stop babbling about it for ages”

Majority of 1

The team has probably a more consensual culture. This culture places a higher value on building consensus as part of the decision-making process and makes sure to get the inputs & acceptance from everyone.

If you are not from a culture placing a high value on building consensus, and if you value a more top-down approach then you might find this type of decision-making extra-long and not satisfying.
You might prefer someone to say “Let’s just do this” instead to cut the conversation.

Try to remind yourself that although the decision making may take quite a long time, the implementation is quite rapid since everyone bought-in and the decision is a longer term decision. Show patience and check in regularly with your colleagues. Resist the temptation to push for quick decisions, focus on the quality.

Majority of 2

Your company, department, the team has a more top-down culture. This culture values one individual making a decision quickly and everyone else following. This individual tends to be the leader or the boss.

If you are from a culture placing a high value on building consensus, you might find this type of decision-making too hierarchical and even a bit dictatorial.Try to remind yourself that although the decision making is made by a single individual, the decision is made quickly, early in the process and the decision is more flexible. As more conversations happen, more data is shared so plans are always subject to change. Be ready to follow a decision even if the decision overruled your input. Success can still be achieved despite the initial plan not being the best.

Mix of 1 and 2

You are probably working with members from both sides and that might cause some frictions. You can avoid problems and frustrations by making explicit the implicit.
Organize a team activity where you decide as part of your team agreement how decisions should be taken depending on the type of decision needed.

Agree when a decision should be:

  • Voted with majority inside the team
  • Manager’s decision
  • Consensus

When a decision is taken:

  • is it flexible?
  • shall we stick to it definitely?
  • for how long?
  • if some data appears can we review the decision?
  • Will we review the decision willingly or reluctantly

Who is bearing the responsibility when a decision goes wrong?

  • The team entirely
  • Some part of the team
  • The manager

Review your team agreements periodically to make sure they still make sense and everyone is on board.

Why is it important to know?

When misunderstanding began to appear then it breaks down any goodwill.

An individual, a team, can be motivated, enthusiastic even, to collaborate with others and/or another team, if the way we make decisions is not clear it can create conflicts that could escalate and prevent people to work with one another.

The best way to avoid this misunderstanding is to make the implicit, explicit.

Take out the test to your team and colleagues and seek out whether they are coming from a consensual or a top-down culture and what are their thoughts on the organization surrounding them.

Open communication is key here to defuse conflicts.

Have you read Erin Meyer’s book?

What is your feedback, what would you challenge? Please let me know by dropping a comment!