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Patrick Lencioni

8 dot points to help you avoid “garbage can decision making”

Patrick Lencioni and former Google exec Kim Scott advice

“Garbage Can Decision Making” is a term coined by Stanford Professor James March in his book “A Primer on Decision Making.”  

It refers to decisions made by people who happen to be sitting around the table, rather than the people with the best information.

According to Kim Scott, author of Radical Candour, the bad decisions that result, are among the biggest drivers of organisational mediocrity and employee dissatisfaction.

Organisational culture expert Patrick Lencioni says ‘fear of conflict’ allowed bad decisions to happen in the Australian banking industry, leading to behaviours outlined in the Royal Commission report.  

“Someone knew that someone was charging (insurance premiums to) people who were dead, and instead of standing up in that meeting and saying ‘Wait, this is not right’ they said “Oh, I don’t want to accuse them, this could be difficult,” he said in an interview with The Growth Faculty.

“They sit in a meeting and nod their heads and say okay we can do that, and they go back to their team and say ‘I don’t think this is a good idea’,” he said.

Kim Scott says in Radical Candour a process is needed:
  • When collecting information for a decision we are often tempted to ask people for their recommendations – What do you think we should do?
  • An executive at Apple told her this leads to people putting their ego into any recommendations (leading to politics, and worse decisions).
  • Instead, create a clear decision-making process that empowers people closest to the facts to make as many decisions as possible.
  • Try the Radical Candour method: Listen, Clarify, Debate, Decide, Persuade, Execute, Learn.
Kim Scott giving hard feedback

According to A Primer on Decision Making, there are four deep issues that persistently divide students of decision making (note: italics are mine):
  • Are decisions based on rational choices involving preferences and expected consequences, or on rules that are appropriate to the identity of the decision maker and the situation?
  • Is decision making a consistent, clear process or one characterized by ambiguity and inconsistency?
  • Is decision making significant primarily for its outcomes, or for the individual and social meanings it creates and sustains?
  • And finally, are the outcomes of decision processes attributable solely to the actions of individuals, or to the combined influence of interacting individuals, organizations, and societies?

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Four Dysfunctions of a Team, says learning to argue productively to make better decisions can be taught. He will be outlining his Four Disciplines Model at The National Growth Summit's Building High Performance Teams in Sydney and Melbourne on March 13 and 15 respectively. 

The Four Disciplines are: 
  • Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
  • Create Clarity
  • Over-communicate Clarity
  • Reinforce Clarity. 
He says "Cohesive leadership teams prevent group think, learn from mistakes, and call each other on potential problems before they get out of hand." 

There are the final round of tickets left to see Patrick Lencioni live on stage for the first time in Australia. Members of The Growth Faculty receive the greatest ticket discount.

Not a member? Join The Growth Faculty today to access exclusive content, including an interview with Patrick Lencioni and an interview with Kim Scott On Demand at the Business Book Club.