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Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)

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The Decision-Making Grid: Let’s first assume, as do many group members, that the concern for adequacy of a decision and concern for commitment of the group to the decision are independent of each other. A high degree of concern for one does not necessarily indicate a high degree of concern for the other. Given this assumption, we can provide a conceptual framework for dealing with particular approaches to decision-making by projecting these concerns as the horizontal (adequacy) and vertical (commitment) axes of a decision-making grid.

Each axis of this grid is scaled from 1 to 9 to indicate the degree of emphasis placed on that particular concern. Thus, as in the case of the leadership grid, a 9 on the horizontal axis would indicate a maximum degree of concern for the commitment of the group to that decision. Within this decision-making grid, it is possible to identify five major approaches to decision-making. Four of the five approaches will be familiar to many people who have served on committees. In various degrees they are based on power, conflict, manipulation, and numbers; none is based on a belief in consensus.

The self-sufficient or 9/1 decision-maker expresses a maximum concern for adequacy and a minimum concern for commitment. She is confident in her own ability as a decision-maker, and it is always the facts, as she sees them, that dictate the nature of the decision. For her, a group is simply not a good place to make a decision; if the decision is an excellent one, she reasons, the group will probably go along with it; but, in any event, it is the quality of the decision that is most important. The 9/1 decision-maker functions as if the final responsibility for the decision were hers and hers alone. Her operation in the group is based on power; to the extent that she has formal or informal power, her ideas will be reflected in the final decision. If she is without power, she may soon become frustrated and withdraw, either physically or psychologically, from the group.

At the opposite pole from the 9/1 position is the 1/9 or good neighbor decision-maker, the person who expresses a minimum concern for the adequacy of the decision and a maximum concern for the commitment of the group to the decision. The primary value for the good neighbor is harmony and understanding within the group. Underneath this apparent assumption of openness and trust, however, there is often an actual mistrust by the good neighbor of her personal powers in a decision-making situation and, most significantly, a fear of conflict. For these reasons, the 1/9 decision-maker emphasizes a superficial sort of togetherness that avoids the confrontation and conflict necessary for adequate decision-making. If this conflict nevertheless does break out, the good neighbor, like the frustrated 9/1, may physically or psychologically withdraw from the decision-making process.

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