Decision making technique

March 29, 2009

Sometimes it’s really hard to get agreement on an issue. For example, let’s say you work in a division in an organization and your division wants to change an existing policy. The organization’s rules state that you need to get agreement to the change from other division leaders, but you know they probably don’t care too much about what your division does or how it does it. This scenario may be familiar to those who work in government departments!

So, how do you get the stakeholders to agree? Well, you could have meeting after meeting, but really, you may not need any meetings for this. You just need their agreement.

One of the best ways to do this is agreement by ‘omission’ (I call it this — or ‘decision making by stealth’ — but I don’t know what the official ‘management speak’ term is for this process).

So how does it work?

  1. The team documents the changes they want to implement.
  2. A cover memo/email is attached that clearly states when written responses are due by.
  3. The team/project leader presents this document to the stakeholders (preferably by email, or as a ‘not for discussion’ item on a routine meeting’s agenda).
  4. At the time of presenting the document, the team leader emphasizes that written feedback is required by a due date. And states very clearly that if a response is NOT received, then permission to make the change is ASSUMED to be given.
Up until the due date for comments, interested stakeholders can discuss the issue either verbally or in writing, but at all times it should be made clear that only written responses will be considered and that they MUST be submitted by the due date.

What I’ve seen happen many times is that the change is implemented because most people are too busy/disinterested/lazy to read the suggested change and write a response by the due date.


If sufficient conflicting responses are received, THEN a meeting may need to be held to discuss the suggested change.

While this seems a sneaky way to get a decision made, it works well in large organizations that have interminable meetings — like government departments…  This method ensures that you don’t get all tied up in trying to get consensus from everyone whether the change affects them or not, and you’re not looking for everyone to have their say in a meeting.

By providing stakeholders with a document with a due date for comments, all those who are interested have the opportunity to have their say, while those who are happy (or not concerned) with what’s been presented don’t have to bother making their voice heard.

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