Group Decision Making That Works |At the Whiteboard
March 10, 2009, 7:33am PDT | Length: 00:04:06
Making decisions within a group can be a long and complicated process. Ed Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics, suggests that no matter what method you go with, you institute a "Disagree and Commit" contract with each member. This means each person will support the decision no matter what, but will also be allowed to gather evidence to support a different decision if it doesn't work out.
Music Edward Museo: Hi. I'm Edward Museo, CEO of Group Harmonics, and I'm gonna tell you about group decision making that works. When you have a group of people that need to come to a decision, the first, most important thing you need to do is decide how they're going to decide. There are a number of ways to do that. Here we have five people, a leader and four individuals that are kind of all set up to be equals. One thing we can do is just say everybody's vote is equal, and we make no change until everyone agrees. That's called consensus decision-making. AS you can imagine, it's rather slow. Often what we do is a modified version of that called the democratic method of decision-making. In that case, we say if enough people vote "yes" on a change, it's okay if a few vote no. We still make the change. But in a sense, everyone's still treated as an equal. And the problem with that, although it is used in a lot of boards and groups like that, is that if people have specific expertise, that expertise doesn't always get weighed. So what we often do is instead is we move to a different model. We put the manager in charge. And then we organize the team around the manager like this. Now, here again, there are some choices we can make. One thing we can do is have the manager, or the leader, just tell everyone else what to do, like that. We call that a dictatorial method. Again here, we're not dealing with the expertise of the people. Usually what happens is something more like this. The manager talks to each of the people back and forth and then makes a decision. That's what's commonly called a consultative model of decision-making. The problem with this, though, is again, if this is really is a complex issue, with a lot of expertise, often what these people know is dependent not only on the manager, but on what everybody else knows as well. And so we start to need a picture more like this, in which everyone is talking not only to the leader, but also to everyone else. The picture is a little bit messy, and as you can imagine, you need a good meeting process to handle this complexity. In that meeting process, what happens is all the members of the meeting teach. They teach to each other, and they teach to the decider. The decider's job is to learn as much as possible and then ultimately to decide. And that's not decide the majority decision, or decide based on popularity. It's to decide what he or she thinks is best based upon what he or she has learned, even if other people don't agree. Now, here's the trick. These are smart people with expertise, and they're not going to necessarily agree with the decision. So before the first decision is made, you need to have a contract with your group called "Disagree and Commit." Disagree and Commit means that everyone agrees that once a decision is made, whether or not they agree with it, they will do three things. First, they will explain the rationale of the decision when they talk about it to other people. They won't say, those dopey folks made this decision. They'll say we made this decision, and here's why. The second thing is they will align they're resources. And that's 100 percent compliance, whether it's their own time, their groups if they're managers, they will do what the decision requires 100 percent. The third thing, and this is a little strange, is they will continue to seek contrary evidence if they disagree, but without sabotaging the decision. Now that's an odd balance. Why would you want to do that? The reason is, although your implementing the decision 100 percent, you're continuing to file away contrary evidence that might not support it, putting it in a file quietly. Why? If the decision works out, you take that file, and you throw it away. But if the decision doesn't work out, then you can bring that contrary evidence back to the group. And in the next decision-making process, you'll have that much more information. So, the next time you have a group of people that need to make a decision, before you do anything, decide what model of decision-making you're gonna use, consensus, democratic, dictatorial, consultative, or group consultative. And if you're gonna do consultative or group consultative decision-making, be sure you have a Disagree and Commit contract before you start. It'll make sure your team decisions are the best decision they can be, and it'll make sure they stick.
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