Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Board Decision Processes: Criteria Listing

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Board Decision Processes: Criteria Listing

Article excerpt

Welcome to Part 2 of our series. In Part 1. in the Winter 1994-95 issue, we raise the issue of how to insure productive group decision processes in the board room We also requested that readers share approaches they have found to be effective, Joe Lane is our navigator on this journey and is joined this month by a co-op director.

Joe: Doug Pryce, president and director of United Power, a distribution co-op in Colorado, is my partner in crime for this article. We're collaborating in what might be called "The Joe & Doug Show."

Doug: Doesn't "The Doug & Joe Show" have a better ring to it?

Joe: Sounds like our first decision process should deal with who gets top billing.

Doug: Given that you control the ink, I'll defer to your better judgment.

Joe: Pretty diplomatic, Mr. President.

Doug: Yes. I'm about to make up for it. How many responses did we receive to your first article?

Joe: Numerous. In fact, a significant number.

Doug: Numerous? Just what kind of numbers are significant in Washington these days? Are you saying I was the only one?

Joe: Oh, no. No, the number was far more significant. Offhand. I'd say at least three.

Doug: Three? A thousand co-ops out there and you got three responses? Looks like we have our work cut out for us. If we're worth your salary and my hefty per diems in problem-solving, we should easily generate twice the response from this column than the first one. More on that later. Why don't we look at the responses?

Joe: Well, okay. One manager from Indiana, who shall remain nameless . . .

Doug: Nameless?

Joe: I forgot to ask if I could quote him.

Doug: I see. Well, what did Bob say?

Joe: Bob said he liked the article.

Doug: That's it?

Joe: I asked him if he had any approaches to suggest. He said his board has had some difficulty in its decision processes, and he was hoping to get some ideas from Part 2.

Doug: I see. What else did you get?

Joe: Another fine response, also from the Midwest.

Doug: Are you sure you mailed this issue of MQ to more than just one town in Indiana?

Joe: Very funny. This was actually from a G & T manager - in a different town entirely.

Doug: So . . . two towns in the Midwest" What did this response say?

Joe: He said. "Right on!"

Doug: Also nameless?

Joe: Afraid so.

Doug: Okay. And the third highly significant response - also nameless?

Joe: Oh. no. Not at all. Scott Luecal said he liked the article.

Doug: Great.

Criteria Listing vs. Pros and Cons

Doug: What's the particular tool we'll be testing today, Mr. Tool Man?

Joe: I call this decision-making process "criteria listing." It's generally more effective for groups than the "pros and cons" process that many boards use.

Doug: Let's back up a second. By "pros and cons" process, you mean that two-column exercise we learned in school?

Joe: Yes. It has four steps:

1. Identify the problem.

2. List the solutions.

3. List what you see as pros and cons of each solution.

4. Evaluate the solutions. Generally, the best solution is considered to be the one which stacks up the best in terms of most "pros" and fewest "cons."

Doug: You know, you can weight the pros and cons to reflect differences in importance, too.

Joe: So not all pros and cons are created equals?

Doug: Right. With a weighting process, four strong pros might outweigh six weak ones. This way, the board can fine-tune the way it makes its decisions.

Joe: No wonder they made you president.

Doug: Back to our topic. Why bother with this "criteria listing" stuff when we have a perfectly good "pros and cons" process?

Joe: Because "pros and cons" is far from a perfect process when it's used with a group. For one thing, it tends to narrow down your alternatives too soon, so it limits your solutions before you've decided what you're trying to achieve. …

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