You need to make a critical decision so you call a meeting. Why? Organizational behavior expert Chris Argys wrote that, at its fundamental level, “the value of a group is to maximize individual contribution”. Fair enough. The meeting has an agenda but it then devolves into what is called “rational ritualism” where everyone does a data and interpretation dance. Decisions are made using the critical thinking methodology of deductive and inductive arguments. Why? “Because that is the only way we know how to do it [or have done it]” is the usual answer. You still have big problems but you still meet the same way over and over again. So what is the solution?
The well-known author and professor, Michael A. Roberto, in his Great Courses lecture series, presented a lecture entitled “Deciding How to Decide” on how to avoid making big mistakes by simply deciding first how to make a key decision. He calls it simply “deciding how to decide”. He used as a historical example what President John F. Kennedy learned from the failure of his Bay of Pigs disastrous decision to avoid it happening twice when he made his decision in the subsequent Cuban missile crisis. It worked. So how did the successful later decision making process work? Professor Roberto’s research disclosed 4 key elements that he believes made the difference. They are:  Composition: decide WHO should be involved in the decision-making process,  Context: decide WHAT type of environment in which to make the decision,  Communication: selecting the MEANS of dialogue amongst the participants, and  Control: deciding HOW to control the process.
The purpose of addressing the four points above is to avoid group-think which is the result of the failure to create “process-centric learning”. Too often leaders focus only on “content-centric learning” of gathering all the information available on the issue, but wholly fail to address creating a balanced approach to weighing the information. The Bay of Pigs decision-making process was fatally flawed due to lack of candid debate, vested interests, and not inviting some key experts to the meetings. This fiasco was avoided in the subsequent Cuban missile crisis decision-making process by President Kennedy by deciding first how to decide.
So why do leaders routinely not create a decision-making process first? Too much time? Too much effort? Too old a habit? Whatever the reason, if you want to start making better decisions every day of the week, ask yourself, have I spent as much time on the process as I have on the content? If not, the author recommends using the four tools above to create a better model to address critical decisions. To rephrase what Albert Einstein once said, “problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking [and meetings] that created them”.