Decision Defending

The following entry is a part of the Pattern Library. The Pattern Library illustrates some of the common patterns of events that have the potential to lead to project failure.

Name : Decision Defending
Type: Decision making / behavioral pattern

In brief :
A person locks in their answer to a question and shifts from trying to understand the ideas and opinions of others to promoting and defending their own idea.

Description :
Decision making in a group setting can be a frustrating exercise.  One damaging pattern of events arises when an individual (or possibly more than one) settles on an answer to a question and then refuses to listen to ideas from others in the group.  In such cases the process of generating ideas stops as the protagonist defends their idea while others in the group put forth opposing arguments that counter their position.

Where two people (or groups) fall into the same trap significant problems can arise as the two camps fight over which is right.  The group expends significant energies focused on only one or possibly just a few ideas while missing the opportunity to generate better ideas.

Typical sequence of events :

  1. A decision is made in a group setting
  2. A person formulates an opinion about what the answer to the question should be
  3. That person locks in their answers and stops listening to the ideas of others or exploring the question further
  4. Person’s focus shifts from listening and generating ideas into the rationalisation and defense of their own idea
  5. Significant energies are burned as the individual argues their position while shutting out the possibility of other ideas.

Negative effects :

  1. Alienation of others in the groups and the breakdown of effective teamwork
  2. Missed opportunities to identify better options
  3. Wasted time as individual(s) rationalises their decision and argues down anyone who puts forth other ideas.

Common Root Causes :

  1. Egos
  2. Poor listening skills
  3. Poor teamwork skills
  4. Gravitation (the tendency to view the decisions we make from within the context of our comfort zone)
  5. Silos (barriers between groups that prevent effective teamwork)

Suggested Actions :

  1. Find ways to discourage people from forming hardened opinions too soon
  2. Facilitate the process of hearing peoples perspectives and opinions before making any decisions
  3. Make sure the rational behind people ideas are exposed rather than just the idea itself
  4. Use brainstorming to separate the generation of ideas from the formation of opinion.