Monday, September 19, 2005

Two Ways of Decision Making

A lot of conflict or disjointedness appears linked to two, almost opposite forms of decision making. Some organizations adopt "information and principle based" while others use "who’s asking" often combined with "go along, get along." Often in the real world people seem to live on a one-way street, and of course, they prefer the latter to the former, except when they become roadkill on someone else’s one-way street.

There are benefits to each style…one is more sustainable while the other is less controversial and more malleable…one is more rational while the other is "personal." It also isn’t a question of public vs. private. It's true private organizations or advocacy groups can more quickly change or flip back and forth between the two styles of decision making, but while in principle, public organizations are expected to be information or principle based, the reality, as one elected official recently put it, is that politics is personal and partisan by definition, not rational.

I know which one I prefer, but that isn’t the issue, and my point isn’t about value judgments. The issue is that when two organizations, each with the opposite style of decision making, try to collaborate, it’s a car crash and bad feelings result. When one style of organization is required to make recommendations to inform another with the opposite style, it is guaranteed to result in a car crash and bad feelings.

Once a style is part of a corporate or organizational culture, it’s almost impossible to change. But a lot of lost productivity, heartache and bad feelings could be avoided if organizations recognize and respect up front that decision making styles may be different and then agree on which one will be used for the partnership.

But realistically, it usually isn’t possible for the information or principle based organization to compromise, and for the "who’s asking" style, it's not about the best decisions but the relationships.

It has taken half a century to figure this out, and now I sure see the crash coming in slow motion, but the styles are so inherently different, I haven’t found effective ways to head it off.

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