by Heather Hanson Wickman, Ph.D. |
The ability to make quick and effective decisions at work is a critical skill for leaders and employees across an organization. However, this can also be a source of significant frustration and wasted time when done poorly.
As such, many evolved organizations are exploring new processes with which to make decisions, and one great place to begin this exploration is what's called the "advice process."

Dennis Bakke coined this term in his book The Decision Maker, in which he described the two ineffective ways that most organizations make decisions:

• Decisions rest in the hands of a few people who tell the "team players" what to do. This robs workers of the chance to contribute in a meaningful way.

• Recommendations are made to the boss, who makes the final call. Once again, the organization misses out on the value its people bring to the table.

Employees are more likely to engage when they have input in the decisions being made, which is why something like the advice process is so powerful.

If you're on the fence, let's look at some other benefits organizations will enjoy.

For any leader who feels anxious about haphazard decisions being made, know that there are checks and balances in place to ensure sound decisions happen.

To give you an idea of how this works, I'll share simple instructions on how I've used the advice process and how I've seen it used effectively in organizations.


Step 1 - Sensing an Issue
The first step is sensing an issue in the work environment. Team members can bring issues they see to the group to be addressed and resolved, not just managers.

Team members should be encouraged to carve out time for addressing issues.


Step 2 - Gathering Input
After the individual identifies a problem, it is his responsibility to gather information, perspectives and opinions regarding the matter from those affected by the situation or from those who have specific and relevant expertise.


Step 3 - Crafting a Proposal
After gathering all the necessary input, the individual who identified the problem drafts a proposal that includes a solution, then shares it with the team.

Here's an example: When tension arises related to frequent absenteeism on a team, a policy would be drafted for the team to agree to review, revise and approve.

Another issue could be ongoing bugs in a software product. In that case, the individual who sensed the problem creates a proposal to fix the bugs and prevent future issues.

Once everyone has had a chance to review the proposal, the team as a whole then discusses, reviews, refines and comes to an approved solution.


Step 4 - Action
After taking the team's advice into account, the individual decides what action to take and communicates it to all concerned. It's her responsibility to document the change and make sure those who are impacted understand what's happening.

It's important to remember all the steps are driven at the local level. Anyone on the team can complete this four-step process, not just team leaders.

With a more formal hierarchy in place, the process may require consultation at different levels within the organization, up to the board, if needed, based on the issue.

The biggest difference from most traditional structures is clear: The problem is not simply sent to the boss to handle. The team handles the issue themselves.



Heather Hanson Wickman, Ph.D. is a consultant, a highly sought-after speaker, and the author of The Evolved Executive. Her practice Untethered Consulting, specializes in organizational change and executive coaching.