Quality decision-making is central to the purpose of boards and managements of credit unions. Decision-making is a process and methodology, regardless of whatever model is used (see Gareth R. Jones, Organizational Theory, Design, and Change). Historically, we have been taught that arriving at a quality decision requires compromise, but I disagree. Let’s examine the concept of “compromise.” What does it really mean? It literally means . . . a settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions. Well now, what does “concession” mean? The definition is rather simple. One must give up something that is significant for the purpose of coming to an agreement. What is important? Is it to come to an agreement, or is it to make the best possible decision? This is not an academic exercise in semantics, because words have meaning which result in actions. The goal should always be to determine the optimal decision, which is the best decision available to all parties involved. Compromise is the hallmark of governmental entities and labor unions, but that, in and of itself, is not the best way to arrive at an optimum decision. That being said, what is a better approach to this issue?
A more desirable direction is to embrace the concept and practices of collaboration, which is a way of working with others to do a task and achieve shared goals. One of the subtle differences between collaboration and compromise is positive conflict as opposed to negative conflict. Positive conflict flourishes in collaboration and negative conflict resides in the practice of compromise. In a positive conflict situation egos are set aside in the pursuit of the optimal decision through cooperation and collaboration. Negative conflict leads to accepting less of something rather than more. The question is, should we settle for less through the practice of compromise? Objectively, the obvious answer is no, because a collaborative approach will give more not less. The goal should be to find the optimal decision. The challenge in pursuing collaboration is that it requires a great deal of cooperation, rationality, and maturity. The preeminent goal of collaboration is to do what is best for the organization/credit union. To do that, those involved in decision making must set egos aside and do what is in the best interest of the credit union as a whole. To say the least, this is where personal challenge comes into play and maturity becomes so important. Keeping individual egos in check is very difficult indeed, but this is essential in the collaborative approach. Before convening a board or management meeting, egos should be checked at the door. Just think how much better our government would be if the House and Senate worked in this manner.
If people use the collaborative approach, synergy emerges as a byproduct of the activity. In other words, two plus two can become five instead of four. According to Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The point is that collaboration results in gain rather than loss, as in the case of compromise.
Note: Please see Compromise is a Bad Word in THOUGHT PROVOKING LESSIONS OF LIFE: True Stories from the Real World (2012) for a more comprehensive discussion.