What a great way to criticize your boss!

August 1, 2012 at 7:47 am Leave a comment

There isn’t a good boss in America who doesn’t take pride in surrounding herself with a management team willing to challenge bad ideas.  For that matter, there isn’t a good employee in America who doesn’t pride herself on getting a project done no matter how impossible or ludicrous the assigned task.  So why is it that when innovations turn sour, no one had anything to do with the proposal and everyone thought it was a bad idea?  Remember success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. 

So, how do we guard against overconfidence?  How do we hear criticisms before and not after the fact?  The simple solution comes out of a book that I would suggest you all read this summer:  Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  His solution is the pre-mortem.  Once it appears that there is a consensus to go forward with the project, at the next meeting to discuss the plan, ask everyone in the room to assume that the plan has gone horribly wrong and write down why they think this has occurred.  This format will accomplish many goals.  First, it avoids the pressure of group-think:  since everyone in the room has to criticize the plan, those people with doubts won’t be the ones trying to rain on the parade of the boss’s great idea.  Second, it forces those people who think this is the best idea since the printing press to critically evaluate the plan.  Their criticism could lead to refinements and adjustments that make it that much more effective.  Finally, if the plan does go sour, it may make it that much easier to pull the plug. 

As a social scientist/nobel prize winner in behavioral economist Kahneman constantly harps on the struggle between the limits of our intuitive powers and the inability to recognize these limits even in the face of evidence.  For instance, a board of directors that thought a new branch was  a great idea could save the credit union much needed mone by getting rid of a branch sooner than later.  Analysis after the fact deals with assigning blame (notice the number of high ranking banking chieftains who demonstrated their commitment to accountability by firing people for coming up with ideas that they presumably agreed with in the first place).  It also provides a constructive way for the office naysayer to provide his input without making him feel as if this is a risky career move.

Entry filed under: General. Tags: , , .

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association.

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