How many school administrators does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
We often find ourselves juggling creative projects with mission-driven initiatives, and ideally, it’s a chance to work collaboratively, learn from one another, and deliver a project that represents the community and the mission of our school.
However, there’s a downside to collaboration — when there are "too many cooks in the kitchen," suddenly, everyone has an important opinion, and egos ignite.
A while back, a DropBox study reported that less than half of us actually enjoy working on group projects, while the other half said the keys to a successful team were:
- Having a common goal
- Working with people you respect
- Having clearly defined roles and responsibilities
- Working with people you like
It’d be nice to have those factors every time a group decision needed to be made, but unfortunately, when it comes to big projects like a website redesign, it’s not often the case.
So...take a breath, and let’s find out (together) what to do when there are too many decision-makers and explore strategies to manage major projects with multiple stakeholders.
1. Identify and Involve Key Stakeholders
- Determine who are the true decision-makers
- Involve stakeholders from different areas of expertise
- Create a well-rounded team
When multiple decision-makers are involved, it's essential to identify the key stakeholders who will play a significant role in the project. There are probably less "true" decision makers than you'd initially think, but these stakeholders could include folks from administration, marketing, communications, admissions, IT, and other relevant departments. Each stakeholder brings unique perspectives and expertise, contributing to a well-rounded decision-making team.
For example, in your website redesign project, involving stakeholders from admissions can provide insights into the target audience's needs, while IT staff can contribute their technical expertise. Involving stakeholders from various departments increases the chances of creating a project that meets the needs of different stakeholders.
There’s a limit to that group, however. You can certainly listen to other stakeholders’ wishes and wants for your redesign, like the athletic director, parents, or board members and trustees, but are you making the site for them? Be polite and listen, but weigh their input against the main audience of your site.
2. Establishing Clear Project Goals and Objectives
- Define the project's purpose and goals
- Identify key objectives and outcomes
- Communicate the project's focus to all decision-makers
To set the stage for successful decision-making, it's crucial to establish clear project goals and objectives. Clearly defining the purpose and goals of the website redesign helps guide decision-makers toward a shared vision.
For instance, for your school’s redesign, the goal might be to create a mobile-friendly, visually appealing site that showcases your school's offerings and enhances the user experience.
In addition to defining the project's purpose, identify the key objectives and outcomes. This could involve increasing website traffic, improving conversion rates, or enhancing your brand’s perception. By communicating the mission-driven focus of the project to all decision-makers, you create an understanding of the project's purpose and ensure everyone is working toward the same end goal.
"I'm so very proud of the work of our teachers, staff, and community members who worked together throughout this process to select, design, build, and now share the launch of the new Longwood School District website with our school community,” said Superintendent Dr. Lohman in a news story celebrating the launch of their district’s new website.
"As part of our ongoing initiative to increase two-way communication with our community, the new site is essential to providing our families with the best interactive web experience possible, with enhanced communication features across the board." Sounds like the goals were set, and everyone knew the objective — wonderful!
3. Developing a Structure for Decision-Making
- Establish a clear decision-making framework
- Define roles and responsibilities for each decision-maker
- Set up regular communication channels for updates and feedback
- Identify areas where decisions can be delegated
- Set realistic timelines to prevent delays
To avoid confusion and streamline decisions, establish a structured decision-making process. This involves defining a framework that outlines the steps and responsibilities involved. Clearly assign roles and responsibilities to each decision-maker, ensuring they understand their contributions to the project.
What does this look like?
Define Decision-Making Criteria
Establish the criteria that will guide the decision-making process. This could include factors such as user experience, mobile responsiveness, visual appeal, content organization, and compatibility with your existing systems. The decision-making criteria should align with the goals and objectives of the website redesign project.
Determine Decision-Making Methods
Decide on the methods for making decisions. Some decisions may require a unanimous agreement, while others can be made through a majority vote or delegation to a designated individual.
Example: The decision-making team decides that major budgetary decisions will be made through a majority vote, while specific questions about integrations will be handled by the IT pro.
Establish Communication Channels
Set up regular communication channels to ensure effective information sharing and collaboration. This can be achieved through weekly or bi-weekly team meetings, email updates, or project management tools.
Example: The team decides to use a project management tool like Asana, where project updates, design drafts, and feedback can be shared and documented in one central location. Slack could be used for daily communications and brief questions or updates.
Create a Decision-Making Timeline
When there are too many decision-makers involved, it slows everything down.
- Determine which decisions require input from all stakeholders and which choices can be made by a smaller group or an individual
- Establish a deadline for decision-making to prevent delays and keep the project on track
- Clearly communicate deadlines for providing input, reviewing designs, and making final decisions
Ensure your team has sufficient time to provide feedback and contribute to decision-making, though. Setting realistic timelines for decision-making prevents bottlenecks and keeps the project on track.
Example: The team agrees to review and provide feedback on design concepts within four days week of receiving them. Final decisions on design elements will be made within a week to keep the momentum.
Does this process need to be written in stone? Maybe not… but it could be helpful to review before the project begins as a friendly reminder of what a streamlined decision-making process should look and feel like.
4. Facilitating Effective Collaboration
- Foster a culture of open communication and respect
- Encourage active listening and constructive feedback
- Use collaborative tools or software to streamline communication and document decisions
Collaboration is key when you're managing major projects with multiple colleagues. To build a culture of open communication and respect, create an environment where all stakeholders feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. Active listening and constructive dialogue are important to ensuring everyone's input is considered.
During the district’s website redesign, Danette Childs, communication coordinator at South St. Paul Public Schools, shared revised content with department heads for feedback before entering the optimized version into Composer, Finalsite’s content management system.
“Now, instead of having 12 pages, a department might have only a few,” Childs said. “We made the information easier to find for people without having to go eight clicks in before they actually get what they wanted.”
“Having an organized system was very helpful in making sure that I was completing everything that needed to be done before our actual launch date — knowing where I put old and new items, what's been updated and what hasn't been updated,” Childs said. “Just having that system in place made updating the pages go a lot quicker.”
Project management tools like Asana or Trello can streamline communication and allow team members to share documents, provide feedback, and track project progress. Providing feedback in person might avoid comments being taken the wrong way over email, too — which brings us to the next important topic...
5. Resolving Conflicts and Reaching a Consensus
With multiple decision-makers, conflicts and disagreements are bound to happen. It’s okay to disagree, but addressing conflicts promptly and constructively is crucial.
For example, in a website redesign, conflicts may arise between your marketing team, which wants a visually appealing design, and the academic team, which prioritizes a detailed curriculum featured front and center.
Ask the group:
- How often are the current curriculum pages viewed?
- How much time do users currently spend on those pages?
- How often do programs change, and does this require a manual update to keep those pages updated?
Guide each group toward a consensus by emphasizing the shared mission and objectives of the project — that will help teams prioritize the bigger picture. When in doubt, use data to inform your decisions.
6. Maintaining Focus on Mission-Driven Projects
- Regularly refer back to the project's mission
- Keep the project team aligned with the goals
- Evaluate decisions against the project's purpose
It's important to refer back to the mission and goals throughout the project. Regularly remind decision-makers of the project's mission-driven focus and how their decisions align with it.
If a decision veers off track or conflicts with the project's mission, reassess and make adjustments as necessary. By maintaining a mission-driven perspective, you can ensure that the project stays on track and completed.
Balancing creative projects with purpose-filled mission-driven initiatives can be challenging, especially when multiple decision-makers. But no matter the number of people involved, you can ensure outcomes that align with your school's objectives and positively impact your target audience. Remember to embrace the power of collaboration and purpose-driven decision-making to create projects that drive your school's mission forward.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.