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Game of the Month No Decision

No Decision

no_decisionNo Decision involves finding innumerable reasons not to make a choice. Some of these reasons can make sense on the surface, but the underlying reason for playing this game is that if you don’t decide, you can’t be punished for making a bad decision. The impetus for playing the No Decision game can come from a variety of sources: people are new to the function or business and don’t trust the information they receive; they come from a slow-moving industry where there was more time to make decisions; they are intimidated by a chaotic, fast-moving environment and believe they’ll be “safe” if they avoid deciding.  Players of this game are often skilled at looking as if they’re simply being cautious and are focused on making the right decision slowly. In reality, they are creating task forces, holding meetings, issuing white papers, and creating the impression that they’re taking action while in reality they are simply biding their time.



Example: A key position opened up at a major packaged goods company when an A player product manager decided to leave and join a competitor. This was a big loss for the company, and a lot of debate ensued among senior leaders about why he had left and what they might have done differently to keep him. The CEO weighed in and said that it was critical they replace the departed manager with an equally skilled individual and make sure they kept him in place for at least five years. The HR vice president in charge of the search to fill the position started the process by interviewing others in the organization and trying to identify the right specs for the job. Then he began assessing whether any internal candidates existed who met the specs. When he determined that none did, he began looking outside for a qualified candidate. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find anyone who was a “good fit.” Ultimately, he recommended that the organization split the responsibilities of this unfilled position among three other managers and renew the search in six months to see if a good candidate could be found then.

The HR vice president was playing a version of the No Decision game, making a good show of doing things while knowing that the safest thing to do was nothing (as filling the position with the wrong person or at least one who wasn’t as good as the previous job holder was a distinct possibility).

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Games of the Month

Token Involvement

To play Token Involvement, a manager conducts opinion surveys, focus group, or involvement meetings to communicate that "your opinion matters", but these activities are done only to make people feel involved rather than actually to involve them. The real intention is just to get rid of the complaints and for managers to show their management that they´re doing the "right" thing-involving their people in the decision-making process. The same game is played when leaders involve their direct reports supercially, soliciting their views on department strategy but relying exclusively on their views on department strategy but relying exclusively on thei own view. Cynicism becomes employees´ultimate response to this game, and they lose respect for management. Perhaps evens worse, when management really needs employees to be committed and contribuing to a major project, they have great difficulty securing this involvement.


Praise for Games at Work

jacopoA terrific read not only for senior leaders and executives but also for employees seeking growth in complex organizations. Goldstein and Read dissect the interpersonal dynamics that affect a company’s performance, provide a framework to understand the games that are commonly played in businesses around the world, and offer practical tools to correct these behaviors and improve the organization’s effectiveness.

Jacopo Bracco Executive Vice President DIRECTV Latin America

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