“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King
According to Merriam-Webster, a “decision” is “a choice that you make about something after thinking about it: the result of deciding.”
How are decisions used in FMEA?
There are a multitude of decisions in an FMEA. Here are a few examples:
- What specifically should be entered in the FMEA columns or fields?
- What is the agreed upon rating for an occurrence?
- Which of several alternatives will be recommended as actions to reduce risk?
- What is the root cause for a given failure mode?
How do FMEA teams make good decisions?
Excerpting from chapter 10 of my book Effective FMEAs:
Teams can come together and make important decisions many different ways. The most common decision-making techniques are covered below.
Spontaneous agreement means the team comes together quickly and without a need for lengthy discussion. If this happens, it is perfectly fine, as long as there are no disagreements or concerns by any of the team members, and care is taken to ensure nothing is left uncovered.
One person deciding is autocratic and has no place in FMEA team meetings.
Compromise means listening, and understanding differing ideas, and then making modifications to find a middle ground. Each side makes concessions. It is one of the more popular methods for reaching team agreement, but this practice has many pitfalls when applied to FMEA teams. Compromise can result in a substandard result. For example, if there are two good (but different) ideas under discussion for an FMEA recommended action, a compromise may end up diluting both ideas into a solution that does not work very well. Another example is a good proposal and one that is ineffective. Compromise can render the good proposal unworkable.
Majority voting is when the team votes, for example, on a risk ranking or a particular solution, and chooses the solution with the most team votes. This is not a good technique for effective FMEAs because the FMEA team is composed of subject matter experts, each of whom has viewpoints and opinions that are essential to the proper outcome of the FMEA. One person may have critical (and valid) views on a topic being discussed and can be easily overruled by the majority of other team members, with suboptimum results.
Consensus building is the best practice for all of the FMEA team decisions. This means the FMEA team takes the time to understand all sides of an issue and finds a solution or determines a course of action that is supported by all team members. Facilitating is a consensual activity.
Why is consensus the best decision technique in an FMEA?
The hallmarks of a good consensus process include:
(Reference the book Facilitating With Ease! written by Ingrid Bens, copyright 2000, by Jossey-Bass Inc.)
- Many ideas are shared
- Discussion is based on facts
- Everyone is heard
- There is active listening, clarification, building of ideas
- No one pushes a predetermined solution
- Team is satisfied with final solution
This question embodies the key to good team decisions: “Have we gotten to a well-thought-out solution that we all concur is the best possible and that everyone on the team can commit to implement?”
1. Using a scribe to enter information into the FMEA worksheet can have multiple benefits. One of them is to visually show the team what is being considered, to help get to consensus.
2. Once a decision is made that people can agree with and support, it is best to move on and not revisit the decision unless there is good reason.
Some people are afraid of facing conflict in meetings. The truth is, if there is no disagreement, it can be an indication of poorly run meetings. In the next article, I will share the essence of managing conflicts, so you can get the best possible results in your FMEAs.