Friday, January 11, 2008

Scary News

I don't usually write about politics, so classify this as a "management" post. The News & Record had a very scary line hidden in this article this morning:
"But on Thursday, Matheny said a motion might not be necessary. City Manager Mitchell Johnson was moving faster than expected on finding Miles' replacement, he said."
Why scary?, because the intimation that the search for a city attorney was being conducted entirely by the City Manager, without input from other sources.

One of the things I learned early in my management career was the power that groups have to make better decisions than individuals make. In an executive development program, I was exposed to the "Crash in the Desert" exercise in decision making. This article outlines my experience perfectly. They write: (emphasis added)

"We played the "Desert Survival" game where the challenge was to decide how to best survive an airplane crash in the desert. Each person had to rank 10 items in order of their importance to survival and decide whether to stay with the plane or try to walk for help. After each person made his or her decisions, we were put into small groups to make the same decisions as a group." "What amazed me was the outcome ... ALL of the groups scored higher than the highest scoring individual.

My boss was an ex-military guy who was quite confident about his survival skills. Even he did not do as well as the groups.

Mitchell Johnson is undoubtedly a smart person, but that doesn't mean he will make the best decision in this case. I think the city has suffered from other decisions that were made by one or two people without input from a broader point of view. (I'm thinking of David Wray's dismissal.) I hope the City Council and Mitch Johnson will realize that a group of people will almost always make a better decision than one individual will and will convene a group to help with the selection of a new city attorney.

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