The Hoy-Tarter Model of Decision Making

Deciding When to Involve Others in Decisions

The Hoy-Tarter Model of Decision Making - Deciding When to Involve Others in Decisions

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Can you trust people to make decisions in the interests of the team?

Imagine that up until now, your team has always worked in the office, but a valued member needs to relocate for his partner's job. He would then be unable to travel into work every day, so he is considering changing jobs.

Rather than lose him to another, more commutable firm, you're considering letting him work from home. But, if you do that, you should probably extend the policy to everyone.

However, you don't want to lose the team's good sense of community and you're concerned that, while not everyone would want to work from home, those who do might lack the self-discipline to remain productive.

So, should you make the decision on your own, or involve the team? And, if you do involve them, should you seek the opinion of every member or just the one who is moving away? After all, if you make the decision on your own, you may lose people who don't like your plan. If you consult them and then overrule their feedback, the situation could be even worse.

Deciding who to include in the decision-making process – and how much influence to give them over the final outcome – can be difficult, and controversial. If you get the balance wrong, there can be repercussions, for both the quality of the decision and your team's morale and motivation.

In this article, we'll explore the dynamics of group decision making using the Hoy-Tarter Model, a tool that helps you decide when and how to involve others in the decision-making process.

About the Tool

The Hoy-Tarter Model was developed by education administration professors Wayne K. Hoy and C. John Tarter, and published in their 1993 article, "A Normative Theory of Participative Decision Making in Schools."

The model recommends varying levels of involvement, ranging from placing responsibility entirely in the hands of others to zero consultation, depending upon:

  1. Whether people have a personal stake in the outcome.
  2. If they have expertise in the matter at hand.
  3. Their tendency to act in the group's best interests.

Applying the Hoy-Tarter Model of Decision Making

To determine which of Hoy-Tarter's levels of involvement to use, first assess your team members' characteristics. Diagram 1, below, has been adapted from the original model to help you do this.

Diagram 1 – Selecting Level of Involvement and Degree of Influence

Adapted, with the permission of Wayne Hoy, from Hoy, W.K. & Tarter, C.J. (2008). Administrators Solving the Problems of Practice: Decision-Making Cases, Concepts, and Consequence. 3rd edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Five Levels of Involvement

Depending upon the outcome of your assessment, Hoy and Tarter recommend that you engage the group in different types of decision-making activity, and adapt your own leadership style accordingly. The activities are:

1. Group Consensus

Team members should be given the greatest opportunity to contribute to a decision when they:

  • Hold a personal stake in the outcome.
  • Bring experience and expertise to the situation.
  • Can be trusted to base their decisions on the greater good of the team, rather than on their own personal interests.

Invite participation at the "Group Consensus" level, by encouraging team members to share their positions, evaluate all of the options, and then reach complete agreement on their final choice.

Facilitate the decision-making process by bringing together and reconciling group members' different opinions to help them reach a consensus.

In a large group, you will often find that some people are more vocal than others. Use techniques like Round-Robin Brainstorming, Crawford's Slip Writing Method, or the Stepladder Technique to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute.

If you are worried that your group may be susceptible to groupthink, use the Six Thinking Hats technique, which gives them the chance to see a problem from many different perspectives.

You may also find Hartnett's Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making Model valuable here, to build a more productive, committed team.

2. Group Majority

This level also applies to team members who:

  • Hold a personal stake in the outcome.
  • Bring experience and expertise to the situation.
  • Can be trusted to base their decisions on the greater good of the team, rather than on their own personal interests.

You may decide to move to the "Group Majority" level of involvement if your team is struggling to reach consensus.

To support this approach, facilitate open communication among group members, protect minority opinions, and lead everyone to a democratic decision.

Many of the tools useful for Group Consensus may apply here, as well. Our article on Organizing Team Decision Making describes several additional techniques that you can use to make group decisions.

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3. Group Advisory

You may wish to limit your team's involvement in decisions if members:

  • Hold a personal stake in the outcome.
  • Bring experience and expertise to the situation.
  • Are more likely to base their decisions on their own, personal interests than on the greater good of the team.

In these circumstances, Hoy and Tarter recommend asking for people's opinions in a "Group Advisory" capacity.

Spend time discussing the opportunities and constraints underlying the decision, and exploring the potential outcomes of the group's recommendations, so that people are more likely to understand and accept your decision – particularly if, ultimately, it goes against their recommendation.

Consider using brainstorming tools to help the group develop innovative ideas and solutions if they get stuck in a rut or adopt a narrow point of view.

4. Individual Advisory

Occasionally, you may want to consult people who have a limited personal stake in the outcome but can offer useful insights, based on their own experience or level of expertise.

In this situation, Hoy and Tarter advise involving them in an "Individual Advisory" capacity to keep your options open, should you make a decision that does not reflect their recommendation.

The most appropriate leadership role for this situation is one where you seek to improve the quality of decisions by gathering advice from a range of group members with relevant expertise.

Use Stakeholder Analysis to decide which people to consult, but also look for people who may have expertise or experience in the area.

5. Unilateral Decision

Hoy and Tarter point out that people are unlikely to make a positive contribution if they:

  • Have no personal stake in the outcome.
  • Bring little or no experience or expertise to the situation.

In this case, it's best to make a "Unilateral Decision" yourself, without consulting anyone else. This may also be the best approach to use in an emergency, or when you need to make a decision quickly.

The most effective leadership role in these circumstances is one where you draw upon your own knowledge and instincts to decide a course of action.


Still not sure what decision-making approach is best for a particular problem or situation? Use the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model to help you decide how to decide.

Our Bite-Sized Training session, Decision-Making Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, will show you how to avoid common mistakes that may derail your decision making.


The Hoy-Tarter model deals very well with team-level decisions. However, it should not be used for all decisions that a manager has to take, particularly where they relate to the customers' or organization's interests, or the team's mission.

For example, customers may be better served if the team's work is outsourced, or if action needs to be taken to resolve a situation that is obviously wrong, such as team members being extravagant with expenses. Depending on local employment law, managers may need to deal with these situations directly, rather than consulting with their teams.

As ever, use common sense when applying models like this.

Key Points

You can use the Hoy-Tarter Model to determine what level of involvement and degree of influence to give people when you're unsure who to involve in decisions and how.

The model recommends varying levels of involvement, ranging from "Unilateral Decision" (no one else is involved) to "Group Consensus" (placing responsibility entirely in the hands of others), depending upon:

  1. Whether people have a personal stake in the outcome.
  2. Their level of expertise.
  3. Whether they can be trusted to make a decision for the greater good of the team or organization.

Our diagram provides an easy-to-use guide to applying these parameters. You can use it to determine which of Hoy and Tarter's recommended levels of involvement to use, and how best to adapt your leadership role to reach the most appropriate decision.

However, remember that there are times when you need to make decisions without your team's help, particularly where you need to look after your organization's interests.