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Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)

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Essentially, default or 1/1 decision-makers avoid making decisions. Often this position is a reaction to the stress of group decision-making. The powerless 9/1 and the frightened 1/9 are often found here. The 1/1 decision-maker is not interested in either the adequacy of the decision or in the commitment of the group to the decision. Most frequently he is operating out of conformity, self-protection, or both.

The traditional or 5/5 decision-maker expresses an equal concern for adequacy and commitment. However, he usually sees these concerns not as complementary but as standing in opposition to each other; in other words, he does not believe that a group can make an excellent decision that will at the same time produce a high level of commitment. Essentially the traditional decision-maker is more concerned with the adequacy of the decision than with the group’s commitment to it; but he realizes he may need to trade off and compromise to get enough support within the group. Usually that support takes the form of a numerical majority; the decision is most often made by a vote. Consequently, the 5/5 decision maker spends much of his effort to build that support which, of course, reduces the time he can spend on the adequacy of the decision itself.

The consensus decision-maker (9/9) expresses a maximum concern for both adequacy and commitment. Each of the four approaches to decision-making described above assumes that adequacy and commitment are irreconcilable and that a group cannot produce a decision that is at the same time a good one with a high degree of group support. The consensus or 9/9 decision maker, by contrast, believes that the best decision can be reached if all the resources of a group can be used. Consequently, she strives for a high level of involvement from all members of the group and sees the group as a good place to make decisions. She sees conflict as a source of new ideas and not something to be avoided. If everyone can be involved in the decision, she believes then not only will the decision be the best one possible—but it will also have the greatest degree of support. Genuine consensus will produce the best possible decisions.

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