A Christmas Story: The Leg Lamp and Group Decision-Making

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A Christmas Story: The Leg Lamp and Group Decision-Making

group decision making software

Since the 70s, group decision support solutions have been delivered to clients much like the delivery man rolling the wooden crate into Mr. Parker’s living room. They have typically been packaged and sold under the premise that the client’s “problem” is solved once the product has been delivered. The value proposition has been to lead clients to believe that they will be able to save huge amounts of money by replacing their consultants with the software, and that the software is not just a part of the solution, but rather, the entire solution. The misconception that has been perpetuated is that as long as a few people are using the software after the sale has been made, lasting change will somehow miraculously occur.


As Mr. Parker looked at the newly delivered crate, he read the block print on the side and said, “Fra-gee-lay, that must be Italian!” Mrs. Parker responded with, “I think that says fragile, honey.” Mr. Parker, then somewhat dismissively says, “Yeah, oh yeah,” and proceeds to open the crate with the innocence and wonder of a small child opening a present on Christmas morning.

Here again, even good group decision support solutions can be fragile unless they are underpinned with a documented process that captures how decisions will be made, who will make them, and what criteria or thresholds will apply.

In my October blog, “Group Decision Support for Agency Budget Formulation,” we discussed the importance of defining and documenting the decision process. Much like the contents of the wood crate, a good group decision support solution must be “handled with care” to endure. In the business world, this means integrating the software solution into the “as is” business process, and incorporating organizational change management techniques to successfully transform to the “to be” business process.

group decision making tools

An Unparalleled Glory

As Mr. Parker worked to pull the contents out of the crate, Mrs. Parker, Ralphie, and Randy watched intently. At first, he pulled out what he thought was a statue of a leg, but quickly reassessed the contents and unveiled the “leg lamp.” He exclaimed, “Oh wow!” and then proceeded to position it in front of the window, much to the dismay of Mrs. Parker (clearly not a group decision). The narrator’s voice (Ralphie as an adult) says: “After the snap of a few sparks, a quick whiff of ozone, the lamp blazed forth in unparalleled glory.” Seeing the leg lamp aglow, Mr. Parker remarked, “It’s indescribably beautiful! It reminds me of the Fourth of July!”

When group decision support solutions are implemented as part of a transformation initiative, the result is also “indescribably beautiful.” The organization becomes unshackled from the dysfunction and debilitating effects of bad decisions, and experiences enormous benefits, to include:

  • Process consistency and transparency
  • Improved stakeholder engagement
  • Increased cross-functional insight
  • Faster and better decisions
  • Greater consensus and buy-in
  • Justifiable decision rationale
  • Historical record of decisions

In addition, the business leaders who champion and sponsor the transformation to a group decision support solution will also offset the potential negative impacts of having bad decision support processes and decision deficiencies, as I described in my most recent blog: “The Decision Deficiency: How a Leader Can Suffocate Success.”

Make it a Showcase

After the leg lamp is properly positioned in the window, it quickly becomes a showcase for the neighbors and passersby. Mr. Parker is genuinely excited to display it for all to see. When a neighbor asks, “What is it?” Mr. Parker proudly proclaims that “It’s a lamp! It’s a major award!”

Like Mr. Parker, once you have established a world-class decision support process, why would you not want to share it with your colleagues and friends? Our clients have showcased their group decision support processes to other lines of business so that they can see it in action. If you do so, perhaps your new group decision-making process will become as iconic as the leg lamp in A Christmas Story.

© 2017 Definitive Business Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

John Sammarco has thirty-five years of experience leading, managing, and consulting to top public and private sector organizations, and has over twenty years of experience in facilitating complex group decisions. John founded Definitive Business Solutions in 2003, which provides world-class group decision-making solutions to increase efficiency, boost ROI, and reduce risk associated with business and technology investments. In 2016, John developed Definitive Pro™, which helps groups build consensus and make multi-criteria decisions.