In principle, people appreciate a heads-up before having to decide something. It’s like making sure that the person to whom you are throwing a ball has his head up and sees you. With warning there is a better chance that the ball will be caught and no one gets hurt. With a heads-up our decisions are more thoughtful, inclusive, and less reactionary.
Practical Tip: Give your group advance notice of every decision that they will be asked to make. Sometimes a long advance is called for, like, “Group, in two months we’re going to have to decide the new product line.”
Sometimes it is an on-the-spot warning by the meeting facilitator like, “Okay everybody, later in this meeting I’m going to ask you to vote on this issue.”
Sometimes it is an advance written notice that a decision is expected, such as a memo or a meeting agenda circulated among the group.
It does not work well to pop a question and expect a fast reaction, especially in a group or public setting. Good group decisions are premeditated.
In principle, an important decision that every group makes is to select its leaders. High-functioning groups give their leaders a little push at the start of their term, special encouragement, a show of confidence. The word inauguration evokes the word augment: to enhance, increase, make greater.
Practical Tip: When people take on leadership roles in your group, inaugurate them. It need not be a fancy ceremony, but simple words, actions and attitudes that convey: we support you and we trust that you will do your best on our behalf.
Even if you did not agree with their selection, as long as the selection process was honorable, give group leaders the benefit of the doubt from the start. Sometimes people in new leadership roles surprise us with new leadership abilities. When we set new leaders up for success rather than for failure, our groups are more likely to succeed.
In principle, a key to achieving big things is to not be distracted by small things. It is good to be passionate about one or two things and it is okay to be indifferent to everything else.
Indifference is simply the absence of feeling for or against. It is to say, “I’m simply not thinking about that right now. I have no judgment about it, good or bad.” Having to make judgments about many things waters down our focus and lessens our ability to make good decisions about the most important things.
Practical Tip: Decide what is really important and focus on that. Give yourself and your group freedom to be indifferent toward things currently out of focus. Better to make no judgment than wrong judgment. Better to make good decisions about a few things than bad decisions about a lot of things. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know what I think about that.”
In principle, group decisions are creations and often benefit from recreation. When the group gets stuck it helps to take a break, call a recess, change perspective, and then come at it again. Engage in recreation.
Fun is often underrated in group decision making. Who says you can’t have fun while making good group decisions? I say that having fun helps make better decisions.
Practical Tip: Work hard together, play hard together. Get to know each other off topic and off site. Do fun, physical activities. Even on topic and on site, build in breaks and games to shake up the focus and encourage creativity.
In this video Craig talks about a dent in his car and tells the story of the consultant and the red X. How do YOU determine how much you should pay for something?
Craig’s answer might surprise you.
This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.
Here’s what Craig says in the video
Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.
This is my work vehicle. I got tables, easels, projectors, a screen. But I want to talk about the outside, right here.
I had a dent; a pretty big dent. I took it to my buddy Glenn who runs an auto body shop. I’ve been doing business with Glenn for 20 years and I asked him, “What’s it going to take to fix this dent?” He looked at it and he talked about how he was going to have to drill rivets and pull it out and sand and repaint. “Well,” he said, ‘two or three hundred maybe.”
And then he said, “Well, wait a minute. Sometimes….” and then he looked real careful here. He looked from the other side. And then he whammed it with his hand and the dent popped out! Just like it is right now. Fixed. Boom. Good as brand new in about five seconds.
It reminds me of the story of the consultant and the red X. Big manufacturing plant; one of their machines went down. It was costing thousands; tens of thousands of dollars a day in lost production. They were trying to get this machine fixed but couldn’t. Finally they called in a consultant who looked at it real careful. And then he pulled out a can of red spray paint and put a big X on the side of the machine. And then he pulled out a sledge hammer and he whammed that red ‘X’ right in the middle. And the machine started working! He sent them an invoice: $10,000. Well the folks that hired him were like, “What do you mean $10,000? You were only here for like, twenty minutes! Can you at least send us an itemized bill?” He said, “Ok, I can send you an itemized bill.” The bill came. Spray paint: $20. Sledgehammer: $80. Knowing where to put the X: $9,900.
That was the value; just like Glenn’s value was knowing exactly where and how hard to hit the back of my car to fix that dent in an instance.
If you’re part of a group having to make decisions about how to spend money, it’s tempting to want to base those decisions on hourly rates or cost of materials. Those are tried and true methods. But if some solution is going to come along which seems to have little baring on cost of materials or an hourly rate but gets you a fix in a hurry, that’s worth considering.
One way to access value is NOT looking at cost of material or hours spent but look at the alternative cost. In the case of that factory, the alternative was costing tens of thousands of dollars a day. In the case of this dent on the back of my car, the alternative was to spend two or three hundred dollars on Glenn and be without my car for a few days. So I whipped out my wallet and I offered to pay Glenn a hundred dollars on the spot because for me, that was good value even though it only took him five to ten seconds to fix it.
I’m just offering that there are different ways to think about value and don’t be tethered to the old fashioned ways. If you’ve got a solution that’s going to get the job done cheaper and more effective than any other solution, that’s all you need to know. Go for it.
I hope this helps you and your group make good decisions.
Thanks for listening everybody.
Oh, one more thing. A little plug for Glenn’s Auto Body, Route 125, Durham, Maine.
In principle, when we ask for feedback we increase our chances of making good group decisions. If we don’t ask we can’t expect people to tell us what’s going well and not so well. When we do ask we should be open to all answers. Asking for feedback takes courage but gives enlightenment. It helps us see things in new light, reflected off others.
Practical Tip: Ask how you are doing among those who care about what you do. What’s working well? What could be better? What questions or ideas do your stakeholders have? Be thankful for all invited feedback, positive or negative. Be open to how you might use it to make improvements.
Take positive comments to heart and share credit with others. When you receive a negative comment, consider that it’s probably not about you. It’s more likely about a particular idea, behavior, or situation. And, consider that negative comments are sometimes all about the world of the commentator and not about the topic at hand.
In principle, there is something to be said for a moral compass handed down to us from our ancestors. As food customs protect us from poisoning, moral customs prevent bad things from happening.
Basic moral themes shared across cultures and continents are trustworthy guides: themes such as respect and compassion for all people, honesty, fairness, self worth, and respect for nature. Groups that consider universal morality when making decisions are more likely to make decisions that head us in good directions.
Practical Tip: Even if you are not breaking a law, or perhaps not getting caught, if you are breaking a widely shared moral code then there is a good chance that bad things will result.
When trying to decide the right thing to do, remember your moral compass…worth following when otherwise off the charts.
In principle, the more information we have about something the better decision we’re likely to make about it. And, we’re likely to have the most information at the last minute. Deciding more than we really need to at any given moment can cause regrets later.
Practical Tip: Before you start making decisions, think about the order of decisions. What needs to get decided first? What next? What can wait? Break decisions up into pieces if possible, and if there’s anything to be gained by waiting to decide a piece (like more people getting more information), wait. Establish a date certain for deciding each piece.
The last minute, although stressful, is often the optimal time for good group decisions. “I love the last minute,” I once heard someone say. “If it weren’t for the last minute a lot of stuff wouldn’t get done.”
In principle, consensus generally means that all perspectives are heard and all concerns are addressed, resulting in decisions that all participants can willingly consent to. Many groups aspire to make decisions by consensus but very few have specific protocols in place to guide its implementation. There is no Robert’s Rules of Order for consensus. Groups often plunge ahead resolved to “use consensus” but with few or no structural underpinnings.
Practical Tip: If you are going to use consensus as your official decision-making method, be specific at the outset about what it means. How, specifically, will you make sure that all perspectives are heard, all concerns are addressed, and what steps will be followed when there is a “block?” Once decided, follow your rules with a degree of formality.
Structure and protocol are just as important in consensus decision making as in any other type of decision making. Being casual about the rules just makes a mess.
In principle, when we decide more than we have to, say more than we have to, or do more than just enough to get the job done, it might cause trouble.
We don’t have to decide everything right now. It works well to decide only what we have to, see how that plays out and then decide the next steps. One step at a time.
We don’t have to say everything we’re thinking. It works to first consider the purpose of speaking and then say just enough to achieve the purpose.
We don’t have to do too much, over-fix things, or fix things that aren’t really broken. That often causes inefficiency.
Practical Tip: You don’t have to do it all right now, or say it all, or decide it all. It’s okay to put some decisions off. Break projects into pieces and make decisions in pieces. The smaller the pieces, the less chance of bad decisions with big impact and the more chance of building on lessons learned.
In principle, people appreciate a heads-up before having to decide something. It’s like making sure that the person to whom you are throwing a ball has his head up and sees you. With warning there is a better chance that the ball will be caught and no one gets hurt. With a heads-up our decisions are …read more
In principle, an important decision that every group makes is to select its leaders. High-functioning groups give their leaders a little push at the start of their term, special encouragement, a show of confidence. The word inauguration evokes the word augment: to enhance, increase, make greater. Practical Tip: When people take on leadership roles in your group, inaugurate them. It …read more