Tips, Videos, Handouts

What is a Good Group Decision?

Here is Craig’s first hand explanation of all that is meant by the words “Good Group Decisions.” Craig explains how good group decisions always result in peace and profit and he clarifies those terms. He also explains 7 key steps for making good group decisions. And he explains 4 key attitudes that, if you don’t have these, you haven’t got a chance of making good group decisions.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Craig Freshley here. The name of my company is good group decisions. Now those words, good group decisions, are pretty carefully selected. I have made a career out of studying and practicing good group decisions and I want to tell you what those words mean to me. Let’s take a look.

Good group decisions. We know what the word decisions means. When you make a decision you resolve a tension, you settle some sort of a conflict; maybe it’s a conflict in your own mind, maybe it’s an uncertainty with how to proceed, but one way or another when a decision is made it resolves conflict and it sets forth an intention for how to make things better going forward. Fair enough.

What is a group decision? Now you might think that a group decision is a decision made by a group. I don’t define it that way. I think of a group decision as a decision that affects a group. Whether the decision is made by a single person on behalf of the group, the decision might be made by a majority of the people in the group, the decision might be made by all the people in the group (we might call that consensus). But any decision that affects a group — affects a company, affects a membership of an association, affects a political organization, a state, a country, a town — that is a group decision and the things that I’m going to tell you about apply to all kinds of group decisions no matter how they were made as long as they apply to a group of people.

Now what is a good group decision? I got to tell you, we make hundreds, thousands; millions of group decisions are made every day. In my opinion very few of them are good group decisions and this is why I have chosen the career that I have. I think we can do better. I think there is a way to make decisions for groups much better than we have and this is what I’m going to tell you about.

In my view a good group decision is one that results in peace and profit. Both. All the time. Here’s what I mean. Now we know the technical term for profit in a for-profit corporate setting is “income over expenses.” Income being good things — I’m being really simplistic here — expenses being bad things; more good things happen then bad things happen. The bottom line is positive. But this word profit — the way I mean it — also translates into a nonprofit sector informal setting and it still means basically more good things happen then bad things happen. As a result of the good group decision, the group is better off over the long run for the most people.

Now in a for-profit setting, profit is measured by financial success. In a nonprofit setting, profit is measured in terms of mission impact. It might be more good things are happening, but it might also be the slowing down of a bad trend. One way or another the group is better off. The group as a whole is better off as a result of the decision.

But good decisions also result in peace, and by this I mean that the members of the group get along with each other better. They are better equipped to go into the next group decision without conflict and in a peaceful way. Now I don’t mean to tell you that as a result of every good group decision all is peace and love and hunky-dory. But I do believe that when it’s a good group decision, the group moves incrementally towards peace rather than away from peace.

And this happens as a result of the actual decision but it also happens as a result of the process. In good group decision making processes people get to know each other, they understand each other, and as a result they get along with each other better.

Not only do people within the group get along with each other better, but this particular group is apt to get along better with other groups. Good group decisions are not the type of decision where one group prospers at the expense of another group, because when that happens it is a setup for conflict later. Good group decisions result in peace not just among people with in the group but also between this group and other groups.

Well how do we make good group decisions? I believe that they don’t happen by accident I think that there are certain steps and certain attitudes that are absolutely key for good group decision-making.

I’m going to show you seven steps.

Number one: Gather. This is the thing that holds the group together. It’s usually a common cause: a company wants to make a profit, a nonprofit group wants to change a law, a group of friends just wants to have fun bowling on Friday nights. Whatever it is there is some organizing principle that gathers the group together and this is what defines whether I want to be a member of the group or not.

Once a group is gathered, next step, Framing. These are like, the rules. How is the group going to operate? Is everyone equal? Does everyone have an equal vote? When we meet to make decisions how are agendas to set? Think bylaws, ground rules, roles and responsibilities. Who’s going to do what? Groups without good framing are going to have a very hard time making good group decisions. We’ve all seen this happen. So I’m encouraging groups to invest in the frame; establish at least roughly how things are going to be done.

Next step; Learn. Before making any decisions we learn about the situation that were deciding about. And we learn about each other and each other’s perspectives.

Then we get to the fun part, Create. This is where innovation happens. This is where new solutions are developed that no one of us could have thought of by ourselves. This is the magic of group decisions. And when this is done well we get high five breakthrough results. And there are specific ways to manage, orchestrate, facilitate, creative decision-making processes.

Then, Decide. You know once we’ve done these other steps, the decision is usually pretty easy. In fact, what I find is that when these steps are done well the right thing to do becomes self-evident. This is a piece of cake. This is actually over the hump and it’s all-downhill from here. And notice how decide is four, five steps into the process. When we make good group decisions we don’t begin with what we think is the right thing to do. We make sure that we have the right people gathered around a common cause and we all know what the cause is. We make sure we know how the thing works, who does what, and how decisions are made. We invest in learning. You know this is a timeless principal: understanding before judgment, understanding before judgment. We invest in creating. We compromise, we listen to each other, we share points of view, we build on each other’s ideas, we together make a solution in a creative process. We create something new. And then we decide.

When we decide we write it down, we make sure that we all understand the decision. This minimizes conflict later.

And then it’s still not a good group decision until we actually do it. So many groups talk, talk, talk, decide something, and then walk away but it doesn’t really get written down, it doesn’t get followed up on, the world does not become better, because the decision is not translated into actions. Good group decisions result in peace and profit and that requires actually acting on the decision.

There’s one more step; Revise. No decision should ever be expected to last forever because we are in the midst of evolution people! Things change, circumstances change, players change, information changes, and in light of new players, new situations, new knowledge, we should revise our decisions. The key thing is that the things we are out there doing are in line with the things that we decided. If we find ourselves doing things different than what we decided, go back and change the decision, revise it. Continual improvement, continual re-visiting of our decisions is crucial to maintain peace and profit.

These are what I believe are key steps to making good group decisions. But you know what, that’s not all. I have learned that a group can do the steps perfectly and still not make good group decisions and it’s because of the attitudes of the people making the decision.

I’ve come to believe that individual attitudes — the disposition that each of us bring to the table — is critical. Now there are a lot of attitudes that can be really helpful to good group decisions, but I think that there are four attitudes that are imperative.

If you have members of the group that’s making the decision, or if an individual is making decisions on behalf of the group, anybody involved in the decision-making doesn’t have one of these attitudes, doesn’t have all of these attitudes, you’re going to have a very hard time making good group decisions.

Attitude number one: Group First. This is a timeless and well proven attitude. It applies to teams, it applies to companies, it applies to countries, it applies to species. If I’m on a basketball team and I set out to score more points than anybody else — I want myself to look good rather than the team look good — then I might look good. I might score more points than everybody else. But the team is more likely to suffer. When I put my own interests over group interests, I might have personal gains in the short run but the group is destined to lose over the long run. It is an attitude of we first over me first. It is an attitude of wanting to give to my group, rather than get from my group.

The group will profit if the individual members put group first. The group will suffer and in fact will crash and burn — will go extinct over the long run — if the members are concerned with getting rather than giving. If you have members of the decision-making team that are primarily self interested rather than group interested, then they might win as individuals, but the group will lose over the long run.

Attitude number two: Good in Everyone. This is a belief that every person has something to contribute. No matter what color you are, what age you are, what gender you are, or how much money you have, or any other characteristic, it is a belief that no matter what, each participant has good in them that can be contributed to the group.

When I write someone off because of their color, age, gender preference, income, or because that person did something bad to me in the past, then I am limiting their contributions. I am missing the opportunity of that person giving to the group and I am also missing an opportunity to hear and incorporate their concerns. Whether I like them or not they are part of the group and if we are to make a good group decision that results in peace and profit I need to look for good in every person; honor and respect their point of view no matter what. Good in Everyone. Without this attitude the group will have a very hard time making good group decisions.

A third critical attitude: Open Minded. This is an understanding that I don’t know everything. This is — even from the person that I don’t like or I have a prejudice against — this is being open to that I might learn something new from that person. When I go into a group decision-making setting close minded — thinking that I already know the answer — than I am in the way of my group making good group decisions. It is a willingness to learn new things, all the time, and it is knowledge that I never….I’m never absolutely sure that I’ve got it right. I’m always open to changing my mind.

But it means something else also. It means I am open to new knowledge coming in but it also means I am willing to share the knowledge and the opinions that I have with others. My mind is open both ways. I don’t keep secrets. I don’t use information that I have as a power against someone else. I want to contribute to this creative process and to do that I let other people know what’s on my mind and I give to the group the benefit of my knowledge. I’m open-minded.

Last attitude: Integrity in Action. These three attitudes [the first three] are a lot about humility. They are understanding that I’m not the most important person in the room. Everyone else has something to contribute, not just me. And I don’t know everything. Humility. This one [Integrity in Action] is about standing tall and speaking up for myself. It is about claiming my space, my feelings, my opinions, with integrity and carrying that integrity into action. It is doing the things that I believe in. It is speaking up when it’s my turn to speak and not shirking from that responsibility.

If I have a person in my group that doesn’t have integrity and does not take action, it’s very hard to make good group decisions. For one thing, if they’re not speaking their truth, if they are not sharing with the group how they really feel, or if they share with the group untruths and — you know — don’t tell us what’s really on their heart, we are not going to be able to make good group decisions.

Further, if there is somebody in the group whose actions are not in alignment with what they say, that’s going to cause conflict later. We all know the situation of the person who, in a meeting says one thing but then afterwards does another thing. That is not integrity in action and if you have a person in your group who cannot be trusted to do things in line with what the group has agreed or say things in line with their heart, you’re going to have a very hard time making good group decisions. This is a critical attitude.

Now look, this is hard to do. Actually all of these things are hard to do. But to do this — to speak what’s on my heart and to act in line with everything I say — first of all I’ve got to know my heart. I’ve got to know myself. It requires a lot of, you know, personal work to get to this place of high integrity and able to act it out. I don’t do this all the time, no one can be expected to have high integrity in action all the time.

And similarly with a lot of these attitudes and even these steps, they don’t need to be done perfectly. But I’m here to argue that we need to strive for these steps and these attitudes as best we can if we truly want to strive for good group decisions.

Just like the steps are critical to making good group decisions, so are these attitudes. And it’s not a guarantee but I have found over and over again that whether it’s a single decider, a majority, or consensus of the group; if whoever is making the decision follows these steps and has these attitudes it will be a good group decision that will result in peace and profit.

Now look, like all things done well, good group decisions requires study and requires practice. Good group decisions don’t happen by accident. But if you want to help your group make good decisions, study the art and practice of good group decision-making.

There are hundreds of resources available at my website. I’ve written Tips. I’ve provided Handouts. I’ve made Videos on all different aspects of these steps and these attitudes. And there are lots of other resources out there and there is no shortage in the world of groups to join and practice with.

So my hope for you is that you help your group make truly good decisions that result in peace and profit.

Thanks for listening.

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