Decision Making - How many execs does it take to change a lightbulb?

Posted on April 23, 2013 by Emer O'Donnell

Decision making

We’ve all heard the jokes about the number of (insert relevant profession) it takes to change a lightbulb. But recently I witnessed an exercise that got me thinking – when we ask groups of people to work together effectively, do we give enough thought as to how that group will make a decision?

@clevergirl Janice Fraser was with us a while back to discuss the implementation of Lean Startup. She did a really interesting exercise which stuck with me around decision making.

Janice asked 2 people to stand at the top of the room and shake hands with each other. Imagine each handshake is a step in the decision making process – 2 handshakes, 2 discussions to reach a decision.

Then she added a third person. Each shakes hand with each person in the group – 6 handshakes, so 6 discussions to reach a decision.

Now let’s add a fourth person – this get us to 12 handshakes, and 12 discussions to reach a decision.

You get the picture – each time you add a person to the group you double the number of discussions required to reach a decision.

So - if you’re trying to build effective, high performing teams – take a look at how those teams are making decisions. This is definitely a case where too many cooks could be spoiling the broth.


Posted in: Startups, Decision Making