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Better Meetings: Decide How To Decide

Posted Sep 16 2009 10:05pm

You're in a meeting. It looks as if all the information is on the table: yet the discussion goes on and on and you table the item for the next meeting. A combination of disgust, frustration, and conflict follow at the water cooler.

Good Meetings Start Before the Meeting

How do you make sure this doesn't happen? 

Simple. Agree on how you'll arrive at decisions before the meeting begins.

Decisionmaking I'm going to offer up a "Let's have consensus" procedure for the purpose of giving an example. That's not the only way to make sound decisions. Some decisions may belong to the manager; if so, say so as well as the reasons for it. What's important is to agree on  what kinds of decisions will have what kind of process

Consensus Example

Most of us have to generate support--as well as the best possible input--for important decisions. I think Consensus provides a good framework for that as long as you are clear on the definition of what it really means. I use this one:

Consensus:  “I can live with this decision and openly support it.” (I added the word "openly" some years back because some folks would support it in the room and then bad-mouth it later. Once you have agreement to openly support it, any other behavior is reason for a performance counseling session).

It's equally important to define and agree on what consensus does not mean.  Consensus doesnotmean we all necessarily think this is thebest or only  solution; just one we will “live with and support”.

With this definition as a template, you will be able bring the group to agreement on how they will make decisons as the meeting progresses. And Consensus is much easier to achieve than a unanimous approval. Some groups I've worked with put both of these on the wall in every meeting and use them as a visual reminder along the way.

Ask these two questions  when you reach a decision point:

  • How many of you can live with with and  openly support this decision?
  • Who cannot--and why not? (If you don't force the "why not?" question, you're not going to get the discussion that could be all that you need to turn it around). Another way to word the "why?" questions is: "What would it take for you to live with and openly support this decision?"

What has worked well for you and your organization?

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