Thursday, January 19, 2012

Who has the D? Does method encourage advocacy over inquiry at times?

Many people have embraced a terrific HBR article written a few years ago - "Who has the D? How clear decision roles enhance organizational performance". I think the article is excellent. It provides practical advice for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of decision-making processes. As they argue, it's so important to figure out who has the decision rights/authority before getting too deep into deliberations on a complex issue. I do think a word of caution is in order though. If we are too quick to frame a crucial meeting(s) as a decision moments, we risk having advocacy crowd out all inquiry. In other words, people may focus so much on winning the argument that the group as a whole stops learning about the problem, or about each other's perspectives and knowledge. Jumping too quickly into decision mode sometimes means that teams frame decisions as go/no go situations, rather than creating and considering multiple options. We sometimes have to remind a team that they may need to do some more collective and collaborative inquiry into the nature of the problem before shifting into individual advocacy mode. I'm not arguing for a go-slow approach. I'm simply recommending that groups remember that focusing too quickly on the "d" can lead to entrenched and polarized camps locked in a dysfunctional conversation without having shared ad integrated all the data and knowledge required to make a sound choice.

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