Hands up anyone who looks forward to making decisions with a large diverse group of people, from different business units, or across teams…
Wow! I am SO (not) surprised! So what is it that makes us want to dive for the closest stapler to repeatedly staple our own heads, rather than engage in a spirited conversation to identify where and how we can reach a group decision.
I think it’s primarily about our definition of “collaborative decision making”. Most people have a terrible past experience with “death by consensus” and herein lieth the issue… Consensus and collaboration ARE NOT the same thing. Not one bit… AT ALL .
“In consensus decision making, we are seeking an outcome where everyone agrees; an agreement that will compel everyone to place their hand over their heart and say “I LOVE this decision!”…said no group, ever.
Consider the last time you were with a group of friends and you decided to meet for dinner, but hadn’t yet selected a place… It’s 7:30pm; you all arrive at a restaurant riddled street and the negotiations commence. Between those who ‘don’t really care’; those who are ‘so-hungry-they’d-eat-anywhere’; those who are ‘super fussy about only being seen in the latest asian–mexican-fusion-microgastronomy-cafe-in-a-laneway’; and those who haven’t even asked anyone else and are just headed directly for the place they like best – this is a decision that is likely to cause considerable tension… or at least some annoyance. Now imagine the length of time and the energy wasted if we insisted that everyone not only agreed but actually LOVED the final decision. Yeah right! So if there is no way that we could achieve this in the real world, why do we do keep trying to do this at work?
True collaborative decision making doesn’t require everyone to love the decision, nor even like it. The aim of collaborative decision making is for people to collectively get to the point where they all have a decision they can ‘LIVE WITH’. This simply means that people are prepared to ‘Let go’ of something and that they are prepared to live with (and by) the decision. It doesn’t mean they walk away lamenting the decision, or that they loathe it.
The six L’s of decision-making (illustrated above) is a scale of contentment within the decision-making process. It ranges from ‘Loathe It’ to ‘Love It’, helping decision makers to rank their level of comfort with any decision they’re part of. In between these two poles, there are the stepping stones of ‘Lament it’, ‘Live with it’ and ‘Like it’. In order to move to the mid-point (‘Live with it’) or beyond (to ‘Like it’ or ‘Love it’), a loathing or lamenting decision maker needs to ‘Let go’ of something they’ve been holding on to. Once they can identify, assess and let go of the block, they can move to a more comfortable realisation about how they can live with the decision.
Next time you find yourself lucky enough to be in a large group seeking a shared decision, explain the 6 L’s of decision making and then try asking – “what would it take for each of us to be prepared to live with this?” This simple question makes an enormous difference… try it!