How Does Your Organization Make Decisions?

From our newsletter of January 3, 2013, by Sheella Mierson    


How your organization makes decisions is critical to your success. There are many ways to do it. We are all familiar with (1) decisions by majority vote; and (2) autocratic decision making, meaning one person makes the decision with a little – or maybe a lot – of input from others. Each method has benefits and drawbacks depending on the setting.

Parker J. Palmer, in his recent book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit (2011), comments about majority rule:

“When we make decisions by majority rule, we set up a win-lose contest. If the outcome is important to me, I listen to you first to determine whether we are on the same side. If I learn that we are not, I listen to what you say for everything that I regard as mistaken or misguided, screening out whatever I may agree with. Then I speak, proposing my superior solution while calling attention to your wrongheadedness. The ground rules of this contest compel us to become adversarial listeners and speakers, ratcheting up the tension between us and making it less bearable, which is why someone usually “calls the vote” long before the issue has been thoroughly explored.” (p.144)

I have seen this adversarial dynamic in companies, in nonprofit and community organizations, in the political arena, and at the dining room table. Perhaps you have too.

Autocratic decision making has the advantage of speed and simplicity. The drawback is lack of participation and real inclusion. This results in the possibility of (a) the decision maker missing crucial information relevant to the decision, (b) stress for the decision maker as decisions are pushed up the hierarchy, and (c) low level of commitment to the decision by group members other than the decision maker.

Dynamic Governance offers both the efficiency of a single decision maker and the greater smarts that can flow from many minds working with elegant cooperation. Organizations using it are more agile, resilient, and financially viable.

“When I was an enlisted man in the Navy, I wondered why the officers didn’t listen to our good ideas. When I became an officer, I wondered why I could never get the enlisted men to tell me what they were thinking. I tell you from experience that Dynamic Governance solves this problem from both ends.”
                               Richard Heitfield, President, Creative Urethanes
                               Winchester, Virginia, USA
                               Using Dynamic Governance since the late 1980s
Please TALK TO ME about how you can make more effective decisions in your organization.