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Decision making frequently includes fuzzy information, fuzzy implications, and fuzzy thinking.  To reduce fuzziness, and amplify higher decision quality, drive your group to focus on What is right, NOT Who is right. By structuring your inquiry and methodology, you help minimize the risk of decisions made that may not be more than educated gambles.

Higher Decision Quality Focuses on'WHAT' is Right, NOT'WHO' is Right

Decision Quality Results from Focusing On What is Right, NOT Who is Right

Some cultures rely on advocacy. As issues surface, people take sides[1]. Some win and some lose. By depersonalizing the input required to support a decision, you create a win-win situation. In “majority win’ cultures, the most persuasive arguments do not win.  Rather, the most persuasive and charismatic champions are frequently the victors. Effective facilitation and structured methodology will stop risks associated with poor decision quality. After all, nobody is smarter than everybody[2].

Kahneman has proven that most people decide, then they justify their decision. A structured approach can force them to delay their decision until all the evidence has been provided. Unfortunately for most, once they have decided most of their thinking focuses on finding support to justify their position. Deliberate facilitation can stop, or at least delay, premature decision-making. Tremendous risks arise if you don’t. Some meetings lead to anger, resentment, or jealousy that may lead to sabotage related to the decision.

Slow down the flow of poor decisions by focusing on building consensus on the purpose of the decision. Next, quickly lay out immediately available options (actions). Then deliberately force the development of decision criteria based on evidence: facts, truths, examples to support them. The structured approach brings all the interests closer together. Finally, have a method or tool in mind for comparing the options to the criteria in support of the purpose.

Structured Tools that Focus What is Right

For example, are you going to use PowerBalls, Perceptual Map, Decision Matrix, Scorecard (etc.,) or some combination thereof? Scrub all evidence to ensure clarity, understanding, and that it no longer belongs to one person, rather the group. Displaying the comparison of options and criteria visually also helps to depersonalize the input.

While most use a projector form, there are advantages to paper and whiteboards that include the transfer of ownership. The presenter or facilitator usually ends up owning PowerPoint®-type slides, regardless of group comments. If you create and visually display participant content with markers, the group retains ownership, and not the computer operator.

Remember the 3-Question Approach when scrubbing:

  1. Is the captured input clear and understood?
  2. Does the input appear to be missing anything critical or substantive?
  3. Can the participants support the input or does something need to be eliminated?

Facilitators understand the importance of focus. A group cannot move coherently from ‘many to many.’  With sharp questions, a group can be led from ‘one to many.’  Therein lies the Content Management Tool that may also be used. One Fact (WHAT) can lead to many Implications (SO WHAT). Each Implication then can lead to many Recommendations. Yet there is no way to conduct a thorough and focused discussion from many Facts to many Recommendations. That headache describes a typical, unstructured meeting.

By structuring your decision-making, you minimize much of the personal bias that lowers decision quality. With focus, you eliminate much of the scope creep in meetings that becomes wasted time. You minimize confusion by displaying a navigable information structure that documents the entire inquiry.  Therefore, all the participants can own it at the end.

What is Right by Others

Although Aldous Huxley with first attributed with saying . . .

“It isn’t who is right, but what is right that counts.”

. . . we imagine others have said something similar, in different languages, long before the 20th century. After all, the risk of poor group decisions in the past usually resulted in death.

Karl Albrecht[3], a pioneer of the structured-inquiry method, said it best:

“As we trade in the ‘who is right’ mind-set for the ‘what is right’ mind-set. We make our organizations collectively more intelligent and more capable of meeting the changing demands of the business environment.”

[1] Note the Type One Thinking in Daniel Kahneman’s book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow

[2] Look at James Surowiecki’s book, “The Wisdom of Crowds”

[3] See


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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