Inclusive Decision-Making Principles

Last Updated on November 6, 2019 / Training & Development


How do I integrate inclusive decision-making into my team culture?


As an organizational leader, you’ve learned about and understand the value of practicing inclusion in the workplace.  You’re beyond hearing about the business case for inclusion.  You’ve been focusing on intentional inclusion practices for years now.  It’s been difficult and time-consuming to continuously improve the inclusiveness of your behaviors and that of your team members, but it’s been worth it and rewarding in so many ways.  There’s more work to do and one of the most complex and important things to keep improving on is your team decision-making process.

Savvy team leaders understand that conventional group habits to decision-making are tough to break. Many times, you will observe that some team members are quiet, some team members interrupt each other, and outspoken team members are getting plenty of time to voice their thoughts throughout the meetings.  Upon reflection of this, you know it’s time to get grounded.  So, what should you do?

The following are principles you can implement to create a more inclusive decision-making environment:

Principle 1:  Ensure Full Participation.  The intellectual power of your team is in their individual and collective diversity of thought! Listen for judgements regarding team members or ideas during and after the meetings, and redirect these statements if needed.  Set guiding practices for meetings that allow for divergent thinking (be wary of “group think”) and include preferred methodologies for introverts.  To ensure psychological safety where your team members feel free to fully express their thoughts, read this helpful guide from Gallup.

Principle 2:  Create Mutual Understanding.  By distributing the agenda for the meeting, discussing the guiding practices for the meeting, and sharing individual needs, goals, and biases in the beginning of the meeting and as needed throughout, it creates full transparency and increases trust of the group for deep and thoughtful ideation discussions.  It’s necessary for each team member to be able to understand and think about another’s point of view.  This does not mean that they agree with another’s point of view.   Multiple points of view provide for the capability of collaboration and meeting multiple needs for innovation. As the team leader, it is your role to set the tone for group conversations that value diversity of thought and helping your team members who may struggle with processing views that are dramatically different from their own.

Principle 3:  Develop Inclusive Solutions.  Capture ALL ideas for problem-solving solutions during brainstorming before vetting and assessing them for validity.  Be sure that each team member has participated in developing the potential solutions.  Some solutions of higher complexity may need additional time to consider, reflect upon, and research further.  It’s important to pay attention to the pace at which the team is reaching their decision.

Step 4:  Generate Shared Responsibility.  Make sure that each team member participates in the thinking process and giving and receiving feedback on the decision(s) before finalizing the action plan.  Each team member is also a part of executing the work required for implementation of the solution.  Be sure to outline who is responsible for what actions and when they are due.   Follow up meetings should include connecting on the necessary action plans and obstacles encountered.

These inclusive decision-making principles can act as your framework for transformational team dynamics.  Activating each team member’s thoughts and strengths will lead to optimum innovation in your organization.  Involving each team member in important decisions will also positively impact their sense of belonging, leading to an increased level of engagement and retention.  To dive deeper into practical steps that you can take to ensure that you are an effective team leader and facilitator of fruitful inclusive group discussions, we recommend you read The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making, 3rd Edition (2014) by Sam Kaner.

Long gone are the days of a conventional decision-making process that often led to team conflict and a lack of commitment to outcomes. Fostering an inclusive decision-making culture is essential in today’s work environment. Although this may take more purposeful planning and skill to achieve, you will be glad that you’ve put forth the effort.


Inclusive practices focused on business and HR strategy will impact the bottom line for your business.  After all, employee associated costs are your biggest investment on your financial statements.  Your inclusive decision-making culture will positively impact your employee experience.  Strategic HR receives numerous requests regarding inclusive culture practices from leaders.  We can help with your business and HR strategy.  For more information, please visit our HR Strategy page.