Malcom Forbes once said, “Diversity” is the “art of thinking independently together”. Isn’t this what association boards do on a regular basis? But, oftentimes thinking independently means thinking differently, which can lead to a clash of opinions and result in challenges to boards of directors with respect to making decisions and getting association business done.
Instead of adopting the philosophy of “When I want your opinion, I will give it to you” boards should consider following the below seven-step process allowing it not only to embrace the diversity of opinions, but also see the value of diverse opinions.
- Define the decision needed. It is important that the board understand clearly what needs to be decided. What is the issue at hand? What problem is the Board trying to address?
- Set the stage. Review background information on the issue and examine the data and facts that are known. Is anything missing? It may also be helpful to ask “why?” Why is this an issue and why do the board members have such diverse opinions?
- Establish criteria. Identify the criteria or conditions that would determine whether a proposed decision is successful. Ideally the decision should be feasible, move the board/association forward, and meet the needs of all the players (board, association, owners, residents, etc.) within the community.
- Brainstorm possible solutions. Using information collected in #2 above, brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Don’t criticize ideas—just listen and look for ideas that meet #3.
- Seek points of agreement. Are there common threads or ideas, if so those present stronger more cohesive decisions as do ideas that meet all the criteria established in #3.
- Work through the tough points. As you narrow the decision, the sticking points will need to be discussed in greater detail and compromises sought. A neutral third party may be helpful for this part of the process.
- Implement the decision. Nothing is worse than making a decision and then not following through with it. Therefore, it is imperative to establish and decide who is doing what and when it will be done.