Consider a prioritization meeting where we attempt to agree upon what is most valuable for us to focus on next. Using our agreed upon criteria we choose Value A. At this point someone comes along and champions Value B based on the following reasoning:
“I sort of promised that to Mr. Very Important Customer”.
Even in organizations that have their act together, these sort of things happen. This is a rather unfortunate situation as this effectively moves the decision away from us as group to an individual, and with this we are no longer in control of our own destiny.
One way to move away from this is to ask ourself: “Should we then design a decision rule along these lines?”
“We choose the most valuable thing based on our agreed upon criteria, unless John has promised something to someone, then we will choose that”
Such a rule would mean that we can begin our decision process with a quick check for promises, and if promises exist, all further debate would be futile as our rule tells us that the decision has already been made by someone (John, in this example) on the organizations behalf. Thank you, John.
If you ever propose such as a rhetorical device and come across someone who actually nods at this point and goes “yeah, that sounds about right”, please send me an e-mail and tell me about it. I want to meet that person and perform experiments. Suffice it to say, suggesting to make these rules explicit gently guides people towards behaving a tad more reasonably.
So, in your mind, what does a good decision process look like? Let us know in the comments.