How can our cross-functional team make decisions that stick?

December 2001 Quick Tip

Many product development teams waste both time and labor repeatedly revisiting their decisions. Are your team decisions determined by the loudest or most eloquent speaker? Does management overturn your decisions because they lack a solid foundation of logic or facts?

Cross-functional team decisions are at the very core of the product development process. If you dissect a project, you will find decisions – many of them cross-functional ones – in the “inner loop” of the process. You will make thousands of these decisions to complete your project. It follows that if you can accelerate or improve decision-making, you will be repaid a thousand fold.

The value of speed in making decisions is obvious, but what distinguishes a “good” decision? A good decision is tough; it is robust. It is resistant to being overturned, because it is built on solid facts that team members agree on.

Fortunately, there is a pragmatic theory of robust decision-making. It centers on the fact that each person’s contribution to a decision has two dimensions, his/her certainty about how well a particular solution performs and knowledge about the performance. If a person expresses great certainly but has no knowledge, they are likely to be wrong, no matter how convincingly they argue.

Robust decisions not only save time. They also strengthen the team and improve its morale. Who wants to be on a team that the boss is always overruling? A robust decision will stand up to the boss’ scrutiny, because it is the best one that can be made under the circumstances.

To explore robust decision-making further, visit (naturally)

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.