Make Meetings Matter
Articles by Charlie Hawkins
it comes to making decisions in groups, there is no perfect method. Each
has trade-offs, in the quality of the decision, the time it takes and
in the commitment that group members have to the decision.
This is common in groups where a single person usually the boss or group leader makes the decision. It is usually the fastest, simplest and clear way to decide something. The main drawback is that it often wastes the brainpower of the group, and doesn't do much for motivating people to contribute. There are times when an individual decision is the best choice when time is short and a decision is needed, for example. If the building is on fire, you don't want to have the group consider the pros and cons of clearing out. If done in a group situation, individual decision-making has the advantage of everyone hearing it at the same time. Other than that, it really doesn't involve the group.
In this method of decision-making the leader or boss makes the decision
after hearing opinions from group members. It can be faster than other
methods, and input from others helps the leader see different sides to
the issue. Participants may also feel valued for their contributions and
opinions. In the end, however, the leader is the one who makes the decision.
This method is perhaps the most time-effective of the methods where the
group is involved, and can enable a better quality decision to be made.
In reality, most leaders make little attempt to work through concerns
or incorporate all points of view, which leads to inevitable frustration
on the part of group members whose advice is not followed. At worst, they
could sabotage the decision after the meeting.
This is a "middle-ground" method, utilized by leaders who genuinely
want to hear different sides to an issue before making a decision. It
takes more time than the previous methods, and can produce higher quality
decisions. Because group members are involved, they are more likely to
support the ultimate decision. In this method, the leader asks other group
members for their advice and input, and seeks to build consensus by addressing
concerns and coming to a decision that everyone can live with.
Modified Consensus "PCIS"
This is my preferred method of group decision-making, because it tends
to produce high quality decisions that are supported by all group members.
Using this method, group members express positives and concerns about
an idea or proposal, and then work on the concerns to forge a solution
that everyone in the group is willing to live with and support. The "PCIS"
is committing to work on the concerns, rather than just expressing them…more
about PCIS later.
When all concerns have been listed, the facilitator turns the group's
focus to generating ideas that address them, one by one. At some point,
a solution is likely to emerge from the ideas, and the facilitator asks
the group if the concern is solved.
Absolute consensus is the most time-consuming of all decision-making
methods. The test for absolute consensus is that everyone agrees unequivocally
with everything in the proposal. It should be used only in special circumstances
when total agreement is required, such as when developing an organization's
mission statement. Like modified consensus, it works best in a small group,
with no more than 7 to 8 members.
"All in favor, say 'aye'…all opposed, 'no'…any abstentions? By a vote
of 8 to 3, the 'ayes' have it; the motion passes." After a vote like this,
the board or committee presumably moves on. An action was taken
in this case a vote and the majority supported it. End of story?
With luck, yes. After all, this is the manner in which government bodies,
supreme courts and thousands of other organizations make decisions. What
could be wrong with it?
Getting everyone to agree may seem like an impossible dream, yet it
is possible. The most effective method I have found is to work toward
modified consensus, using the PCIS Positives, Concerns, Ideas,
Solutions model to identify and work through concerns.