Here's Part II of a catalog of group decision processes. Check out "Decisions, Decisions: I," Point Lookout for November 17, 2004, for more.Time-boxed consensus
gives the group
a low-risk opportunity
to practice consensus
- Time-boxed Consensus
- The group reaches a consensus before a specified deadline. If it fails, another pattern (usually Authority) kicks in.
- This approach can mitigate both the efficiency risk of Consensus, and the alienation risk of Authority. It can be especially helpful in a polarized environment, where it gives the group a low-risk opportunity to practice consensus.
- Majority Vote
- A conventional aye/nay vote. If the number of ayes exceeds a preset threshold, the proposal is accepted. If the threshold is more than half, this method is called a supermajority vote.
- This procedure allows more dissenters than consensus, which speeds decisions, even in a polarized environment. But that strength is also a weakness — it can foster the development of factions, and if a proposal is adopted, the minority often feels alienated. Decisions by thin majorities in a polarized environment can exacerbate polarization.
- In every method except Authority, the authority's vote is just one among equals. The Veto enables the authority to negate a group decision, which mitigates the risk of groupthink.
- This procedure is rarely used in business, and even more rarely is it declared openly. The risk of alienation is extraordinary.
- A somewhat safer approach is a technical veto, which overrides the group's decision on the basis of legal, ethical or regulatory grounds. Even a technical veto can risk alienation, but at least the authority is less directly involved.
- Expert Subgroup
- The decision is delegated to an expert subgroup, which then uses any of the other patterns to reach a decision, and the larger group is then bound to adopt the result. If the subgroup's decision isn't binding, then no delegation has actually occurred — instead, it's just a committee study.
- Expert Subgroup delegation addresses the risk of slower, more cumbersome processes such as the various forms of Consensus, but it introduces some risk that flaws and alternatives won't be fully illuminated or considered. It can work in a polarized environment, provided all major factions are represented. Even if they are, if one faction is small, this method increases the probability of blockage by a lone dissenter, because the body is smaller, and it subjects that dissenter to much greater pressure. This threatens the credibility of the result, because the expert subgroup can be seen as an isolation tactic.
A common source of trouble with any of these methods is confusing the content decision with the process decision. Be clear about the difference: deciding whether to decide, by when to decide, how to decide, who will decide, or what pattern will be used are process decisions. Blurring the content decision with any of the various required process decisions can introduce tension and conflict — and keep you from deciding anything at all. First in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Decisions, Decisions: I
- Most of us have participated in group decision-making. The process can be frustrating and painful, but
it can also be thrilling. What processes do groups use to make decisions? How do we choose the right
process for the job?
- My Boss Is Driving Me Nuts
- When things go badly, many of us experience stress, and we might indulge various appetites in harmful
ways. Some of us say things like "My boss is driving me nuts," or "She made me so angry."
These explanations are rarely legitimate.
- Asking Brilliant Questions
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doing so. That's what makes this such a delicate subject that I've been delaying writing this article.
Well, those days are over.
- TINOs: Teams in Name Only
- Perhaps the most significant difference between face-to-face teams and virtual or distributed teams
is their potential to develop from workgroups into true teams — an area in which virtual or distributed
teams are at a decided disadvantage. Often, virtual and distributed teams are teams in name only.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 27: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from embarrassing the chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can chairs do about stone-throwers? Available here and by RSS on March 27.
- And on April 3: Career Opportunity or Career Trap: I
- When we're presented with an opportunity that seems too good to be true, as the saying goes, it probably is. Although it's easy to decline free vacations, declining career opportunities is another matter. Here's a look at indicators that a career opportunity might be a career trap. Available here and by RSS on April 3.
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