it’s not about you, it’s about the decision

Ever experienced (or maybe created) a situation where someone refused to yield on a decision? They made their preference known and refused to back off – even when it clearly went against the group or good sense?

So often, we’re not arguing for what would be best. We’re not hearing the other views, taking in new information, and reassessing our solutions. Instead, we’re sticking to out guns. No matter what.

And what a waste of time that is.

I was recently involved with a committee that needed to assess several applicants to determine who would receive an award. Each applicant was evaluated on several criteria and assigned ratings. One person collected the ratings from each member of the committee and compiled them into a spreadsheet, comparing the rating in a few different ways. The numbers showed there was a clear division between the top tier and the next level. The top group was certain to be granted the award, but there were a few the committee would need to debate. These were applicants that received mixed ratings across the committee.

On almost a whim, the committee members’ names had been removed from the spreadsheet. Although each could see all of the ratings given for each candidate, no committee member knew who had given which ratings.

Interestingly, with the names removed, the candidates became more important than the raters. No one dug in their heels or got defensive. Those who felt strongly one way or the other brought up their concerns – but it was clear it was about the candidate, not saving face or defending their ratings. Those who didn’t have strong feelings could quietly go along with the group without having to justify their scoring. Debate and discussion moved along quicker than ever, egos stayed in check, real issues surfaced, non-issues stayed away. All in all, a quicker and more effective method than in previous years.

This suggests to me that there are real benefits in any decision making when we can find ways to keep it about the decision. That’s what a secret ballot is all about. I’ve been harping on the idea that people don’t want the best decision, they want their decision to be best. Well, this is one way to remove the “their” part of the equation so that the group can focus on the best decision.

Although, this was for a community award, I’m very interested in using this approach with interviewing and selecting candidates. Or any group decision. Any thoughts?

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