One of several useful lessons I learned at my hell job was lunchtime rules-
a quick set of rules to help groups come up with acceptable decisions quickly.
I don't claim that these are good for deciding important life issues, but
I find them invaluable for dealing with things like
"Where shall we go to lunch?"
If the difference between an ideal result and an acceptable result is
worth less than the time of the people involved, this stuff works.
- Know what the issue is "Where shall we go for lunch?"
- Someone proposes a valid plan to address the issue. ("Lets get Italian food")
- A valid plan is one that has not been proposed before
- A valid plan addresses the current question ("where to go to lunch")
- The rest of the group makes valid responses to the plan. The only valid responses are:
- Yes If the current plan is acceptable, say "Yes"-even if you might like another option better.
If the current plan fails, and an unacceptable counter-plan takes the floor,
you can offer your preferred plan as a counter-plan. The goal is not to maximize individual preferences,
but to find a group solution quickly.
- if the current plan is not acceptable, propose a counter-plan;
at least as specific as the plan ("Lets get chinese food"). This is the only means of rejecting a plan.
- Withdraw from the group. This isn't a bad thing; it shows a value on time, and
acknowledges that sometimes there is not a good solution for everyone readily available.
- Any non-valid response is treated as a withdrawal from the group. No response is treated as a "Yes".
- Any counter-plan over-rides the current plan; everyone involved must respond to the counter-plan with a valid response.
The current plan is no longer valid, having been brought up once and rejected.
- If all agree on the plan, begin again with a more specific plan, if needed
- once all agree to a plan sufficiently specific to act on, act on it.
An example: A, B C, D and E want to figure out where to go to lunch together.
A says "Lets get pizza" (a plan)
B says "Yes" (B is fine with pizza)
C says "Lets get chinese" (C would rather leave the plan than eat pizza)
A says "Yes" (A is fine with chinese)
B says "Yes" (B would rather have had pizza, but Chinese is OK, too. No need to say anything other than "Yes", since the current plan is acceptable)
D says "Yes" (the get chinese plan has now passed; E's assent is implied by the lack of counter-plan.)
A says "Lets go to Madame Wok's" ( a new, more specific plan)
B says "Yes" (B just wants to go eat already)
C says " Yes"
D says "Lets go to Rising Sun"
A says "No, you folks have fun." (A hates Rising Sun, but doesn't know of any other Chinese places,
so can't make a valid counter plan. A withdraws from the group plan. )
B says "Yes"
C says "Yes"
E says "lets get mexican". (This is treated as a withdrawal, since the counter-plan
is invalid-it acts against the agreed upon chinese food decision)
B, C and D have now agreed to go for lunch at Rising Sun, with minimal time wasted
worrying about the decision. E and A still have to deal with lunch on their own,
but at least they didn't spend 30 minutes trying to figure out that out.
So next time I say "lunchtime rules", this is what I mean. The core of it is the
insistence on counter-plans as opposed to simple refusals.
Saying "no" doesn't help anyone get closer to a solution.
If you don't care enough to help the solution happen, you don't care enough to be a part of the group.
I'm usually OK with a relaxed view of counter-plans; a less specific plan could be acceptable,
but a previously rejected plan is not. But for maximum efficiency, the counter-plan should never be a step backward.