Increase Engagement and Develop Better Solutions

agile leadership agile teams collaboration decision-making

By Julie Springer

June 1, 2022

You might be missing out on a big win-win opportunity for your organization. By creating a collaborative process for identifying and deciding on solutions, you will not only increase team member engagement, you will also develop better solutions. Most leaders want these two things, but don’t readily see the connection between them, or know how to do it. They worry that it will be too “messy” or “time-consuming” to involve team members in the process. They think: Better to let the leaders decide, bring the solution to the teams and then let them figure out how to get it done. Thinking this way is a mistake!

Taking Orders Decreases Motivation

Even in the best-case scenario, where leaders come up with a great solution that will meet customer needs and is supported by the team that will do the work, team members end up feeling like order-takers. They don’t feel valued or motivated to do more than what is required to get the job done. You risk losing your top-performers who will eventually look for a position with greater responsibility.

In the worst-case scenario, leaders don’t have all of the information needed to make the best decision. Then, team members not only feel like order-takers, but experience frustration, resentment and disengagement. Unfortunately, this is very common. Well-meaning managers are used to making the decisions and think that they are supporting the teams by figuring out what needs to be done. However, team members feel that their voices aren’t being heard, and they start keeping score on how often they are told to work on something that they don’t agree with. Morale and trust drop, and leaders struggle to figure out how to improve the culture. 

Involve Team Members in Identifying and Deciding on Solutions

The good news is that you can easily begin to turn this around by making it standard practice to involve team members in identifying and deciding on solutions. With a good process, this can be done without wasting time or devolving into arguments over what option to choose. More importantly, it will result in higher quality solutions that the team believes in and will improve engagement and motivation.

Following this guidance will help you to put a good process into place.

  1. Set a clear vision for the change
    • Communicate the intent behind making the change, before taking action. 
    • Gather input from team members on what they hope for and the types of brainstorming and decision-making conversations they want to be included in.
    • If you get the feedback that team members don’t want to be involved, don’t take this at face value. Some teams become so disengaged that they don’t believe change is possible. You will need to start slowly and build trust. Begin including the people who are willing, and show that it can work.
  2. Design collaborative meetings
    • Identify the meetings where discussions and decisions about solutions are currently taking place. Evaluate how to make these meetings more inclusive and collaborative.
    • If the conversations are happening in leadership meetings that cover other topics, create a separate meeting for discussing solution options.
    • Identify a skilled facilitator to design and lead the meetings. The meetings will be more effective if they are facilitated by someone who is not also participating in the brainstorming and decision-making.
    • Ask the facilitator to include activities that engage the participants, using visual tools for collaboration.
  3. Commit to hearing everyone’s voice 
    • Establish meeting norms to set the expectation that participants will be respectful, have one conversation and a time and be open to hearing all ideas before evaluating them.
    • Coach managers so that they understand that their role is not to jump in and make the decision, but to support their team members in sharing their ideas and evaluating the options. The goal is to help team members gain confidence and get better at identifying and evaluating solution ideas, and this won’t happen if they are overpowered.

By following these steps and working to improve the process over time, you can expect to see a change in the relationship between leadership and team members, with increased trust and open communication. Team members will appreciate that their knowledge and ideas are being taken into consideration and they will have a greater commitment to making sure the solutions are successful.

Receive Practical Tools and Tips

Start by downloading the guide: How to Use Discovery to Focus Your Agile Teams on Solving the Right Problems and gain free access to powerful resources, delivered to your inbox every week. 

You will be added to our email list and we will send you practical guidance and tools for Outcome-Driven Planning. Unsubscribe at any time.