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Organize Dissent

The effective decision-maker organizes dissent.

Decisions of the kind the executive has to make are not made well by acclamation. They are made well only if based on the clash of conflicting views, the dialogue between different points of view, the choice between different judgments. The first rule in decision making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.

Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., is reported to have said at a meeting of one of the GM top committees, “Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here.” Everyone around the table nodded assent. “Then,” continued Mr. Sloan, “I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.” There are three reasons why dissent is needed. It first safeguards the decision maker against becoming the prisoner of the organization. Everybody is a special pleader, trying—often in perfectly good faith—to obtain the decision he favors. Second, disagreement alone can provide alternatives to a decision. And a decision without an alternative is a desperate gambler’s throw, no matter how carefully thought through it might be. Above all, disagreement is needed to stimulate the imagination.

ACTION POINT: Organize dissent for a particular decision by bringing people with diverse points of view into the decision process. Choose on the basis of “what is right,” not “who is right.”

Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices

* Source: The Daily Drucker by Peter F. Drucker

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