Why to avoid straw poll decision-making in the boardroom

Using a documented—and agreed upon—decision process helps credit union boards of directors be more effective, says John Oesch, associate professor at Rotman School of Management, at the University of Toronto and faculty for CUES Governance Leadership Institute, offered April 15-18 in Miami and June 10-13 in Toronto.

“The board chair needs to own that process,” he said in the CUES Podcast Episode 50. “If it’s time for strategic planning, if it’s time to make difficult choices about financing, if it’s time to make important human resource decisions, a more rigorous process is required. That’s the chair’s job, to ensure that we don’t start by going around the table and seeing what everyone thinks.”

While it may be tempting to start a board meeting with a straw poll—because it can be an open discussion and lets everyone have a chance to speak—the cost to doing so is too high.

“If we go around the table and get everybody’s opinion or position on what should be done, what happens now is that each board member has now declared a position publicly. … It changes an individual’s psychology to defending positions and attempting to find reasons why it’s a good position.”


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