In Part I of this series, I examined a portion of a framework for making decisions that match the real needs of the organization. I call such decision-making processes congruent, because the resulting decisions fit the organization. That first part of the framework provides guidance to organizational leaders to ensure consideration of the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. That's fine as far as it goes, but it assumes that stakeholders want to — and know how to — express their needs and concerns, if given the opportunity. In this Part II, I offer a framework for stakeholders to guide them in expressing their needs and concerns in a complete and forthright manner.
This second part of the framework is important, because incongruent decisions can result even if the stakeholders or their representatives are free to express their concerns. For example, if stakeholders ask for more than they need in order to have "room to negotiate" then they deprive the decision-making team of access to the stakeholders' true concerns.
Here are four criteria that stakeholders or their representatives can use to express their concerns in ways that support congruent decision-making.
- Stakeholders express their own true concerns
- Each class of stakeholders has its own concerns, independent of the concerns of others. While it's true that a given stakeholder's concerns might conflict with the concerns of other stakeholders, the decision-makers' task is to resolve such conflicts, balancing conflicting concerns. They can carry out that task effectively only if they understand the true concerns of all stakeholders.
- Stakeholders honor the concerns of other stakeholders
- Stakeholders or their representatives who express their understanding of the concerns of other stakeholders provide invaluable assistance to decision-makers. Decision-makers almost inevitably must balance conflicting concerns. Understanding how different stakeholders see the concerns of other stakeholders is essential to this balancing process. For example, if one set of stakeholders harbors a mistaken view of the concerns of a second set of stakeholders, decision-makers can clarify and resolve the misunderstanding only if they know about it.
- Every Incongruent decisions can result
even if the stakeholders or their
representatives are free
to express their concernsstakeholder has a legitimate role relative to the mission of the enterprise. In expressing their own concerns, stakeholders must honor the roles of other stakeholders appropriately.
- Stakeholders honor the concerns of the enterprise
- The stakeholders in the decision in question have a relationship with the enterprise as a whole. Stakeholders' understanding of the concerns of the enterprise is useful data for decision-makers.
- The enterprise has concerns independent of the direct concerns of any of the stakeholders in the decision in question. Enterprise leadership must make decisions that balance stakeholder concerns, even when those stakeholder concerns are in direct conflict with each other or with the concerns of the enterprise. Stakeholders in the decisions in question must be aware of enterprise concerns, and they must express their understanding of those concerns to decision-makers.
- Stakeholders honor society's concerns
- Society at large also has concerns, but in most cases, society has no means of expressing them as part of the decision process. When we express our own concerns to decision-makers, we must take society's concerns into account. For example, we want our actions to be in compliance with the law, and with societal norms. We might have concerns for the locale, for our nation, or for the global environment.
Finally, decision-makers are stakeholders too. Congruence in decision-making processes requires that decision-makers assume responsibility for their decisions, but they cannot be responsible for incongruence of the stakeholders. When other stakeholders mislead or manipulate decision-makers, they show disregard for decision-makers as people, and incongruent decisions can result. First in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
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- Managers and supervisors who take credit for the work of subordinates or others who feel powerless are
using a tactic I call Credit Appropriation. It's the mark of the unsophisticated political operator.
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it does real harm to the organization. What is the behavior?
- Why There Are Pet Projects
- Pet projects are common in organizations, including organizations with healthy and mature planning processes.
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- How to Stop Being Overworked: I
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- Not Really Part of the Team: I
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 8: Multi-Expert Consensus
- Some working groups consist of experts from many fields. When they must reach a decision by consensus, members have several options. Defining those options in advance can help the group reach a decision with all its relationships intact. Available here and by RSS on July 8.
- And on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
- In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.
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- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.