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Avoiding Decision Failures: The NASA Challenger Explosion and Groupthink

When alternatives are overlooked because cohesion is favored over individuality, the results can be tragic and lasting.

The top decision-making team responsible for the Challenger launch was very familiar with each other. They had worked with each for many years prior to the mission.


Group cohesiveness in decision-making can be deceiving. Decisions are often made quickly and with high levels of consensus, but this doesn’t always correlate to the BEST choices. When alternatives are overlooked, because cohesion is favored over individuality, poor decisions can arise.


How can you avoid this?
Remember a quick decision doesn’t always mean a great decision. Carefully examine alternatives by bringing together diverse groups of people with varied backgrounds. It is important that the solution is the priority rather than pleasing, or being an appeasing group member. 

Precursors of Groupthink
1. Cohesive Group
2. Insulation from Experts
3. Leader Preferences


This post also highlights 8 symptoms of groupthink including:

  • Inherent Morality
  • Stereotyped Views of Others
  • Self Censorship
  • Mindguarding 
Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

Following my last post, this is a  large part of a the risky, and at times the lonely business of challenging "strong leader preferences" that led to a tragic, well known outcome in the USA. ~ D

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Angie Tarasoff's curator insight, March 27, 2014 12:52 PM

This is a tremendous article that discusses decision traps when making decisions in groups.


The precursors and symptoms of groupthink  are polarities - how might you manage the situation when you notice these behaviours occuring?

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Smart profits, smart values and sustainability from a bank boss who dares to be different

Smart profits, smart values and sustainability from a bank boss who dares to be different | Change Leadership Watch | Scoop.it

Anders Bouvin is the boss of the most successful bank you've probably never heard of. And he, like the bank he runs, will challenge your preconceptions.   

    

For starters, this African-born, Swedish chief executive of Handelsbanken's growing UK operation doesn't receive an annual bonus, ...[and] has been with the Swedish bank for 28 years.

    

Most surprisingly, the 55-year-old supports west London's Queens Park Rangers Football Club with a passion intriguing for a Swede who spent the first 10 years of his life growing up in Zimbabwe.

   

….Anders Bouvin…was thrilled to be offered a job…in a company "whose values coincided completely with my own".

    

Those values - long-term-ism, and a philosophy of de-centralization encapsulated in the slogan "the branch is the bank" - seem almost too good to be true in a current banking era of fines, debt crises and outsourced customer service.

  

Big banks, according to the popular narrative, were the primary causers of the global debt crisis thanks to their reckless investment in high-risk mortgage-backed bonds.

    

Handelsbanken says its branches, such as this one in Aberdeen, come first


But Handelsbanken remained above the fray, emerging with a balance sheet strong enough to make European banking regulators purr with delight.


…next to no marketing keeps overheads down and return on equity up.

     

At Handelsbanken returning a share of the profits to long-term staff is also key. If the bank exceeds the average profitability rate of its peers, then surplus profits are put into a fund and distributed to all the staff.

    

Handelsbanken
*  Founded in 1871
*  Has no sales or market-share targets
*  Staff get flat salaries without bonuses
*  Claims to have achieved higher profitability than the average of its rivals for 41 years in a row


...Handelsbanken, headquarter[ed] in London, is expanding to meet increased demand while some of its larger rivals get smaller.


"Many banks are having to absorb huge losses and have had to shrink to repair their balance sheets... and there are clear indications that SMEs [small and medium-sized businesses] are bearing the brunt of this. It's very sad."


All in all, Anders Bouvin appears the least likely candidate for executive burnout you'll ever meet.

Related tools & posts by Deb:

     

    

  • Stay in touch with Best of the Best news, taken from Deb's  NINE multi-gold award winning curation streams from @Deb Nystrom, REVELN delivered once a month via email, available for free here, via REVELN Tools.

 

Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

This is yet another positive example of how smart, people-centered values, with decision-making driven down the chain and low hierarchy, can drive profitability and sustainability, even in one of the most traditional industries. More information on comparisons with other business models to follow. ~ Deb


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Deb Nystrom, REVELN's curator insight, February 26, 2014 3:02 PM

This is yet another positive example of how smart, people-centered values, with decision-making driven down the chain and low hierarchy, can drive profitability and sustainability, even in one of the most traditional industries. ~ Deb

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From Twitter to a new kind of company with no managers, a "Holocracy"

From Twitter to a new kind of company with no managers, a "Holocracy" | Change Leadership Watch | Scoop.it

“Management perspective looks at reports as resources – like how can you get the maximum value out of this person,” Stirman says. “But when I think resources, I think like natural gas or coal mines. Thinking about a person’s life that way just seemed really dehumanizing.”


______________________

He started spending one-on-one meetings talking to his reports about their lives, instead of their tasks, and productivity shot through the roof.

______________________


Frustrated with poor results, he decided to go off script. He started spending one-on-one meetings talking to his reports about their lives, instead of their tasks, and productivity shot through the roof.
 

______________________

 

“We don’t have a hierarchy of people, we have a hierarchy of circles.”

______________________

    

“When you sit across a table from someone, ask them ‘What’s going on in your life?’ That will always remove more hurdles than asking them ‘What’s blocking you at work?’” he said.

Stirman hit another wall trying to shield his team from external drama and politics. “Classic management advice, and all my mentors told me that insulating your team from things so they won’t worry will make them more productive and happier,” he says. “But they just got angry, and confused, and disconnected. I was constantly censoring all this information and they were way happier when they knew everything.”

...“The structure is totally built around the work the company needs to achieve its purpose,” Stirman explains. “We don’t have a hierarchy of people, we have a hierarchy of circles.”


...But Medium isn’t just taking a revolutionary approach to digital publishing – it’s changing the way companies operate too. As one of the fiercest and most faithful adopters of Holacracy – a radical new theory of corporate structure – Medium is experimenting with a completely management-free environment that’s laser focused on getting things done. 


Read more: http://ow.ly/nKJBL

 


Related posts by Deb:

    
   

 

 

Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

I have to wonder why this antiquated old-school management advice is still circulating to the likes of of this younger, IT saavy crowd.  Old habits die hard.  

This detailed article cites the positive side of letting go to embrace something very new.  The leader-writer, Jason Stirman, not a manager,  discovered a diverse motivations tool that seems to work for his group, and is in for the long haul on the manager-less experiment with Holacracy.   ~  Deb



 

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Marie Jeffery's curator insight, August 10, 2013 3:02 PM

Thanks for drawing our attention to this excellent post, Deb Nystrom!

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Handling Complexity in Decision-Making: Avoiding The Bike Rack Effect in Meetings

Handling Complexity in Decision-Making:  Avoiding The Bike Rack Effect in Meetings | Change Leadership Watch | Scoop.it

Why would a $100M power plant zoning approval take 3 minutes and a request to build a $10,000 bike rack for city sidewalks take hours?


It's easy to be swept up in the trivial and fun stuff, starving the big issues for the time and consideration they merit.  Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British historian and operations researcher, penned this extreme example of decision-making in meetings in his book Parkinson's Law. Paraphrasing the Wikipedia entry, the powerplant is so expensive, the sums of money are hard to frame.

 

Related tools & posts by Deb:

      

  • Stay in touch with Best of the Best news, taken from Deb's  NINE multi-gold award winning curation streams from @Deb Nystrom, REVELN delivered once a month via email, available for free here,via REVELN Tools.

          

     

Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

This is a post useful for anyone connected to public sector meetings, or any meeting with complex topics.  I've posted this in change leadership watch for the reasons of asking you, the reader the question, have you ever helped a decision making body avoid the The Abilene Paradox, a classic management film about avoiding mismanaged agreement?

This post also illustrates the power of Parkinson's Law where board members lazily skip over the seemingly impenetrable problem in the meeting, deferring to the team managing the project. There will be implications for years of this city council meeting's decisions, and yet it is decided in three minutes.  It's astounding, assuming we haven't been excluded from a long list of previous meeting discussions.   ~ D

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Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, March 24, 2014 11:58 PM

Most humans have no comprehension of $100 million, but understand $10, 000.

Tom Russell's curator insight, March 27, 2014 7:00 AM

I'm sure we can all identify with this scenario. It reminds me of a school football game when everybody is running after the ball regardless of their agreed position on the pitch. Clearly where there is passion there is engagement, so focussing on, and agreeing, clear outcomes is a key starting point if one is going to avoid everyone being kicked in the shins.

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Your Team Can Smell a Rat

Your Team Can Smell a Rat | Change Leadership Watch | Scoop.it

"Let’s call him Frank.He seemed so sincere, so talented, so driven. When I met him on a business trip—my former CEO and I—I liked him right away. ...Seemed like a great fit."


The CEO and I didn’t listen to our subject matter experts. We thought we knew better.


Frank was a disaster. He one of the most self-absorbed and devious people I’ve ever worked with. Because of the benevolent nature of our organization I was working for at the time, it took us years to untangle the mess we had gotten into, and by then he’d done serious damage to our team’s reputation—not to mention motivation and productivity.

Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

One of the author's more recent book is, All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results,  It features solid research and good examples of the impact of culture on success, so he knows from this single example of "the rat" to company wide culture change on what makes a difference.  


From one reviewer:   In a healthy culture....those who share it are nourished by mutual respect and trust. It is no coincidence that most of the companies that are annually ranked [as] most admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their respective industries.    ~  D

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John Michel's curator insight, September 24, 2013 12:50 PM

A great lesson in hoy leaders would listen to their team before making  key hires.