Goals: Have your attendees create a faster and more inclusive process for making decisions.
Do you want to engage all your attendees in decisions you make?
Have you ever had your team make a decision and unmake it right afterwards?
Do you ever wish that you could use your meetings to make decisions faster?
Then you should try the 1 CACHE decision-making process. This is a 30-plus-year tested system that helps companies like Microsoft and the National Park Service make decisions faster and make those decisions stick.
Time: 5–60 minutes, depending on the decision to be made and the attendees
Technology: Audio, video
Category: Decision making, consensus
Instructions: Follow these six steps the next time your meeting must result in a decision:
Step 1: One Leader
Choose one leader to lead the process. This is not a directive leader; this is a facilitative leader whose role is to follow this process and make sure everyone agrees at the end.
Step 2: Clear Goal
State the clear goal for this decision. Check that everyone is in agreement with the goal. A thumbs up (agree), down (do not agree), or middle (I agree to go along with the group) vote is an easy way to check that everyone agrees. If someone does not agree, modify the goal until 100% of the attendees agree.
Step 3: All Brainstorm
The leader needs to ensure and keep track that every attendee has at least one chance to talk and add ideas for the decision. The leader should not let attendees cut or criticize ideas; they can let them know to just hold those ideas for the next step.
Step 4: Cut Ideas
The leader should start cutting ideas by suggesting the idea(s) that have the highest odds of success
and the highest odds for being accepted by the attendees. Other attendees can also now chime in on cutting ideas that they don't think will work. Cutting ideas helps attendees who naturally think counter to the group as well as avoiding ideas that might waste attendees' time. Step 5: Hear the Solution
The leader now recounts what they think the decision is. Attendees can clarify the decision. The leader now takes a public or private vote. If anyone disagrees, ask for modifications that would allow them to go along with the group or agree. Continue this process until 100% of the attendees agree to go along with the decision.
Step 6: Execute the Plan
The attendees now execute the decision they made.
Tips: Often, I see decisions made in meetings that not everyone buys into and then one or more people sabotage the decision after the meeting as the group attempts to follow through on the decision. I think the worst outcome for a meeting decision is when one person dictates a decision, everybody adjusts their plans for that decision, and then that one person changes their mind on the decision without discussing the impact on everyone else. This creates resentment, distrust, and disengaging in future meetings.
While making a decision this way may take longer than a leader just making a decision and telling everyone, I have seen that a meeting using the 1 CACHE system makes better decisions using the experience and engagement of the attendees. The attendees are more likely to follow through on the decision because they all had a chance to vote on it and all accepted the idea enough to follow through with it.
Debrief: You can compare this decision to previous decisions your attendees have made. If they like the process, keep it. If they want to modify the process, consider accepting the change if the original goal of making decisions faster and making those decisions stick is kept.
Case Study: I was consulting with a software company that was making a new email program. When an email was sent to 10 people, the server “fell over” and didn't return control to the user for 24 hours. The server had a “slight performance problem,” which was a vast understatement. The general manager assembled a “performance” team that was asked to go fix this problem. The performance team executed their first approach. They asked for all the performance data from every team. Every team produced performance data that said they were fast for what they were designed for. The performance team needed to take a different approach. They went to the server lead developer and found out he was creating a giant log of everything that was happening. The performance team wrote a customized app that highlighted all of the communication happening between the client and the server. For a simple action of reading an email, it took 43 round trips to the server. This is the equivalent of having 43 dollar bills, picking one up, driving to the bank, writing a deposit slip, depositing the dollar, and driving home, and then doing it 42 more times.
Armed with this information and the 1 CACHE decision-making system, the performance team called a meeting with the leaders from the eight different components. The performance team chose one leader to represent them. This is what the leader said:
The clear goal is that we need to improve performance or we will never ship our product. We are clear it's not just one component that is the problem. Here is the communication between the client and the server. We will never know enough about each of your components to achieve the performance we want. Performance is now all of our problem.
The performance team waited while every team lead read through the communication. Finally, after the longest two minutes of the performance team's lives, every team lead started brainstorming. They asked if they could share information. They asked if they could defer giving the results until later. They found ways to eliminate waste. Toward the end of the meeting, the performance leader cut the ideas until the ideas with the best chance of improving performance were agreed upon. Over the next weeks, they were able to reduce the 43 round trips to the server by half as they started reading two emails every trip. These changes drastically improved the performance of the server where testing proved it could now host 10,000 users/server. The process earned the company two US patents and the server has sold over 200 million client licenses. Making important decisions faster and making them stick with a large team can be critical to your company's success.