With vibrant, diverse, and passionate members but limited time, we know that it can sometimes be tough to make decisions efficiently. This guide covers four ways that your group could use to help reach decisions:
- Robert's Rules of Order (simplified)
This resource also discusses electing leaders and promoting diversity in leadership, as well as digital communication tools. However, it’s worthwhile to highlight here that our number one tip is not to rely too much on digital communications to make decisions: if you can, meet in person or pick up the phone. Decisions are a lot easier if you can talk.
Regardless of what tools you use, remember to record the decisions as you make them—check out our How to Run a Meeting guide for a sample action item and decision tracker. It’s also good practice to review the list of actions and decisions that you have recorded at the end of the meeting.
When to Use Each Method of Decision-making
Robert's Rules of Order/Parliamentary Procedure: A democratic, non-hierarchical system of making decisions. This is especially useful if you have a large group and you believe everyone should have an equal voice. For example, your group might use this to agree to an organizational structure and big picture priorities, before empowering individuals and committees to lead on implementation. The full Robert’s Rules are quite detailed, so this guide will present a highly simplified version.
Group: everyone participates and the decision is not attributed to a single person. This method should be used when a decision is important, no one person should control it, and you have a small group (ideally less than a dozen, and no more than 25).
Consultative: an individual is responsible for the decision but they are expected to consult a stakeholder group. This should be used when your group is comfortable with a leader making the decision, but it’s an important enough decision that the leader should seek advice and information to carefully evaluate the best course of action.
Autocratic: a single individual makes the decision. This is used when a decision is not that important, one person has the information to make it, and/or conflict among your group is unlikely. For example, if your group has agreed to print a flier and has the budget, one person should to make the decision about what printer to use. Don’t let the name scare you: the more decisions that can be handled this way, the better to conserve your group’s time and energy!