In my work with teams who make decisions together about tactics, strategy, and personnel, logical fallacies and cognitive biases show up, so I’m going to write a few posts about some of the most common. This is the fifth post in this series. You can find links to the first four posts at the bottom of this one.
Fallacy: Middle Ground
Definition: Saying that a compromise, or middle point, between two extremes is the truth.
Simple Example: My mom says it’s always wrong to lie. My dad says it’s okay to lie as much as you want. I conclude that it’s okay to lie sometimes.
What it looks like at work:
Daryl is up against a deadline to trim at least $500,000 from next year’s budget and is expected to revamp the sales and delivery region structure to ensure the greatest efficiency. There isn’t a lot of accountability, historically, and he’s put this decision off. He’s holding a meeting with his top two team members to iron out a plan.
Holly says that combining the current six regions down to two will save $800,000 per year, and makes a compelling case. On the downside, it will really upset the status quo, require layoffs, and put a massive burden on IT. This will save a lot of money on paper, and it’s an intriguing idea, but it might be too austere.
Jaime says that expanding to eight regions and having some existing employees serve multiple cross-functional roles will save $400,000 per year. This will require rewriting some job descriptions, some reductions, but most savings will be in logistics. Also, some long-term vendors will have their contracts reduced or eliminated.
Daryl hears both positions and says, “How about we just have five regions? Stands to reason that we will save $600,000 per year if we just pick and choose from the best parts of both ideas. I’ll submit that as the plan, and we’ll work out the details later.”
What to do?
Look out for any pair of positions that involve numbers; sometimes averaging them as a compromise seems like the way to go, but it’s often not. Resist the temptation to settle on an easy solution.
Watch for signs when conflict isn’t productive and when people are so quick to rush to resolution they compromise without debate. When that happens, slow it down, ask questions, and mine for conflict.
For more in this series: