I do get the impression, however, that most of the time decision makers have had made up their minds before consulting their underlings and associates. And here’s the real dilemma: they send out letters, enquiries and questionnaires, requesting the inputs of those who matter. But then (depending on the diversity of the choices available and on the amount of dissent permissible) when finally a decision that had been made earlier becomes public and affirmed, the decision maker, who had subconsciously made the decision beforehand, and who went through the motion for the sake of curiosity or thrill, this decision maker will be in a bit of a bind: what to do with the very valid points and vectors of opposition that he had gotten aimed at himself and his decision? He could, for the heck of it, ignore them. Since, well, if you have the capacity of making a decision without oversight breathing down your neck, then you also have the capacity of ignoring, muzzling, and even suppressing dissent.
But this is not how despots think. The decision maker, who’d already made his decision before asking you to proffer your valued opinion on the subject, truly believes that his decision is the smartest, most brilliant (albeit also the most self-serving) one of all. He feels unwittingly insulted by the exposure of flaws and pinpointing of shortcomings in his decision. But what he’s supposed to do about it? The decision had already been made, and he still sincerely, honest-to-god believes that his decision is the finest, most ambitious and visionary one out there. So what should he do to alleviate the feeling of inadequacy he ends up feeling about his decision-making process? He tries to get the opposition, those with the most valid and differing point of views, to change their minds. To see things from his perspective. From his mind-set and his state of being when he’d started making the decision before the decision-making process was supposed to commence. The following scene unfolds:
Despot: I think you made a compelling argument for why your method of approaching the impending crisis is more effective than the one I’d proposed. But hey, don’t you feel that, in the greater scheme of things, we might be able to salvage more assets in the long run by staying the course?
Dissident: Hmm. Nope. I mean, I see the merits of your argument vis-a-vis the status quo. But sitting on our hands is not an option. This is the time for action.
Despot: true, true. But hey, all I’m saying is, veering off from our envisioned trajectory that we’d been plotting with great care for the last decade isn’t an easy, spur-of-the-moment decision. There’s got to be more telltales of a radical, permanent shift in the market situation for us to react the way you’re proposing. You certainly see my point?
Dissident: I certainly see your point. But honestly I don’t see why we’re having this conversation: I’d already exhaustively explained the advantages of tweaking our policies for the upcoming fiscal year. You’d see in my report that I’d played out scenarios of all the possibilities and risks you’re talking about, and I still concluded that this is the best way to go. I can’t put it any better. If my report couldn’t secure your conviction in my proposal then nothing else will, this conversation included.
Despot: Fine, fine. We’re still tossing ideas to see if some last-minute spark of inspiration could break this …standstill. I want the best for this company. And I want us to be on the same page…..
Dissident: well, sir, with all due respect. I’ve already said what I have to say about the subject matter. Take it or leave it.
(Think Tom Hanks in Angles and Demons: "Guys....You called me!")
This scene could go on for a while. And it depends on the resilience and backbone of the dissident. Eventually, he/she could stalk out of the room with exasperation. Or agree to disagree in the most amenable manner and make his/her retreat. Or, if his/her concern for the well being of the despot’s ego surpasses his/her faith in his/her own judgment, he/she could yield and succumb to pressure and eventually agree that the despot’s is the way.
But barring a smooth and unwrinkled conclusion of the decision-maker’s impasse, don’t you, with all the compassion of your heart, empathize with the decision-maker and his dilemma?
Despots of the world, I feel for you. Hang in there…