Some members of our team (me included) were recently stuck on a decision, and that led to us getting stuck in a discussion vortex. After a couple weeks, we found ourselves scrambling to choose a path in the face of a looming deadline. We got it resolved, but that kerfuffle reminded me that there are always only four types of decisions.
From less to more involvement of team members, those decision types are:
1. Command – leader takes charge, asking no questions and just directing (mainly used in crisis);
2. Consultative – decision maker gets individual feedback from team members, then makes a decision;
3. Collaborative – team has a discussion, after which decision maker makes the call; and
4. Consensus – everyone has to agree or majority wins. This is only used for things like where to go to lunch.
90% of decisions are either #2 or #3. #1 through #3 require decision maker to be named before launching into the process.
Staying mindful of the four types is empowering for everyone who participates. When we aren’t mindful of which type of decision we’re making, frustrations can emerge. For example, people might think something is a consensus-driven decision, but others actually understand that it is really collaborative. Then people become upset because the decision maker simply made a decision without calling for a vote or without consensus being reached. But when we are mindful of the decision type, each person knows their role to play, and instead of trying to get their desired outcome, they are more apt to focus on fulfilling their role (giving thoughtful counsel).
Trust and a clear understanding of who is ultimately making the decision are big requirements for us to make good decisions and for everyone to feel good about the process. The participants need to trust the decision maker’s judgment, and also trust that the decision maker will thoughtfully consider their input.
Within a trusting team, choosing a decision maker is almost always easier than reaching agreement.
Thanks to Craig Johnson for introducing me to this idea.
Jaywalking came up in conversation recently, and reminded me of a wonderful book that devoted an entire chapter to the subject: James Scott’s Two Cheers for Anarchism. That got me reflecting on all the other non-business-y books that have informed my thinking about business.
The Valve Handbook for New Employees
Through their employee handbook, Valve introduced me to the idea that an empowered work environment can work at a large scale.
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, Matthew Crawford
A recovering philosopher and disillusioned think tank executive director decides to start a motorcycle repair shop. The book articulated an important idea that I now reflect on nearly ever day: extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation.
Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play, James Scott
Scott shares six short stories of how anarchy (I’ll define anarchy as “emergent order without authoritarianism”) guides the overwhelming majority of human interactions. The book was a great reminder to me of the danger of top-down and the virtues of bottom up.
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
This book probably has the second largest number of attacks and dismissals penned by people who have never read it (the Bible holding the top spot). Rarely have I come across a critic who has ever opened it. Atlas Shrugged is a story about creativity, what it means to be creative, how that affects the world, and what would happen if we lost our creative people.
The Man Who Planted Trees, Jean Giono
This very short and beautifully illustrated book follows a French shepherd named Elzéard Bouffier, from the eve of WWI through the end of WWII. It’s the story of what happens when vision meets consistent and deliberate action. Setting out to plant a garden is aspirational; Setting out to plant a forest is visionary.
Peter Gray presented some data about the correlation between anxiety in children and the school calendar in an article in his Freedom to Learn series.
“Kids are people,” Gray writes, “and they respond just as adults do to micromanagement, to severe restrictions on their freedom, and to constant, unsolicited evaluation.”
I thought a chart might make it easier to digest, so I put this one together via Google Sheets.
This looks only at data from the Hartford Connecticut Children’s Mental Center. I’d love to see this on a national scale, for specific cities and regions, and–though I can’t imagine how the data would be collected–from school to school (including homeschoolers and unschoolers).