Two starting points:
To the extent that these starting points hold, decision making is in trouble. I think they hold. And not only that, I think the NHS has particular problems that tighten the knot and make decision making even harder.
This is not true everywhere, but the typical NHS management culture privileges hierarchy. The prevailing assumption is that the more senior people are, the more likely they are to be right. HIPPOs* rule.
In this culture dissenting from a leader’s view is seen as ‘dangerous’: so dangerous that we then talk about the need for ‘psychological safety’ when approaching disagreement. HIPPOs are dangerous.
These are systemic problems. I suspect they follow largely from our reliance on nationally driven, top-down approaches. Waiting for this to be fixed would be a counsel of perfection (and despair).
So are there things we can do in the meantime? Are there simple methods and approaches we can use to foster a healthy culture of debate and diversity?
Ian Leslie’s book ‘Conflicted’ is a fine source here. The book details practical approaches adopted by organisations (and couples…) around the world to surface, explore and resolve disagreement. It’s well worth a read.
Taking inspiration from Leslie, and many others in this field, the Midlands Decision Support Network offers practical advice in our ‘Thinking Tools for Decision Making’ training workshops. Three such tips can be used almost immediately:
These three tips won’t change the tide: far larger forces are needed for that. But they could help your teams to swim against it. If we are to harness the creative and clarifying power of divergence, then we have to learn to reach disagreement.
* HIPPO = HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion.