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Value-Driven Decision Making (and Crickets)

Value-Driven Decision Making (and Crickets)

By Jess Morgan, Senior Manager, Information Technology Applications

Almost a year ago, we had a series of meetings with clients in preparation for an enterprise project. The goal of the meeting was for the IT team to walk away with an idea of client values, pain points, and drivers for success. The client representatives in the meetings came from various functional areas of our association client teams and each brought a different perspective to the discussions.

As with many meetings where folks are gathering for the first time to take on a common goal, we each stated our name, title, and background, and to make it fun, something that most people don’t know about us. Sure, that’s silly and interesting. Then I went out on a limb and asked the following question:

For $20,000, would you eat a bowl of live crickets?

I’m guessing that even as you read it, you formed an answer in your head. A definitive “no,” a definitive “yes,” or an indecisive, “it depends”.  In our meetings, we had folks asking how big the bowl was, if they could use ketchup, if they could have a beverage, and whether they had to pay taxes on the earnings. Others answered immediately, with variations of emphatic “no’s”.  Some people had no hesitation and said, “Sure, not a problem,” because they felt the value of the money outweighed the short duration of discomfort. We had many fun and engaging conversations around this one question and learned things about each other that probably would not have been discovered otherwise. Then we moved on with the purpose of the meeting – after all, I was not funding this scenario, nor did these answers have any bearing on the topic of the meeting.

You’re wondering where I’m going with this and I’m getting there. Every day, we make decisions. We decide for ourselves, for our teams, for our families, and perhaps for larger populations, such as associations and communities. Behind our decisions and what drives them, is a set of values. Some are known to us consciously and others may not be. Asking a question like this and hearing the considerations of those answering got me thinking about how well I know the values for those I represent and whether I consciously consider those values when making decisions. Or, am I guilty of relying on my own value set when making a decision on behalf of my constituents? 

The next step of my mental journey was thinking critically about how we at 911 make decisions that need to balance client values with 911 values. Frequently, there are trade-offs, options, and alternatives (or other words that mean that you don’t get exactly what you want). It was easy (and fun) to have a conversation around eating crickets and discussing the values behind each of our decisions. How can we have similar conversations around business decisions or project decisions? Can we be more mindful of the values that drive decisions and listen without judgement? Can we explore values in non-threatening ways? Can we consider trade-offs that satisfy the goals we have without breaching the boundaries of reasonable risk?

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During those meetings I referenced earlier, we explored website requirements and nice-to-haves.  We found that for some teams, the value of an overall better user experience through clean design and workflows was greater than the value of a single feature within system, such as a membership directory, for example. Although the directory was a benefit to members, analysis showed the directory was the least visited page of their website. Some teams were willing to forgo the ability to collect donations for a period of time because they valued a responsive event registration wizard. Donations were important, but not a significant revenue generator like their annual meeting. Other teams held firmly to their wants and needs. They provided clear reasons, rooted in their values, for not sacrificing features, such as contribution to customer engagement and revenue.

Getting back to my questions above,  the answer to all is yes, by the way. Yes, we can. We can get there by ensuring our teams have shared understanding of client and 911 values. We can get there by taking the time to have the right conversations. We can get there by trusting each other to use all of this to uncover the choices we have that we might not have known about. By taking these steps, we can ensure we make the best decisions based on the values of those impacted.

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