Lock-in occurs in group decision making, when groups engage in, for instance, negotiations, politics, diplomacy, war, management, and problem solving. It happens when groups fail to adapt to changing situations, rejecting or failing to see alternatives to their choices even when those alternatives are clearly superior. Instead, they escalate their commitment to the chosen course.
Knowing the indicators of lock-in can be helpful to anyone who wants to move a group toward alternatives. Here are four indicators relating to the history of the group's decisions.
- Path dependence
- Although the group's decisions depend on both its composition and its current perceptions of the problem, they also depend on the path the group traveled in arriving at its current position.
- The path traveled determines the state of knowledge within the organization, the hires made, the consultants known and trusted, the sites and locations that were developed, the equipment and software acquired, and many more personnel and physical factors. This history can cause decision makers to persist with a solution beyond the point where they would have if they had a different history.
- The need for justification
- Closely related to path dependence is the need for justification. The need for internal justification can arise when the decision makers have personally supported choices that led to the current situation. By escalating commitment, they hope that the eventual outcome will justify to themselves both the choice they are now making and all their past choices as well.
- External justification is similar, except that the audience of the justifying action is the group's perception of others' assessment of the group's performance.
- To those Detecting lock-in in your organization
can be difficult if you're one of
the decision makersoutside the group, inflexibility is both an obvious indicator of lock-in and difficult to understand. For seemingly unfathomable reasons, decision makers reject alternatives that seem promising.
- Because seeming inflexible or irrational can be damaging to one's career, groups that adopt inflexible positions do so most often in desperation. They feel beset. They feel that adaptive behavior will make them seem weak, and thereby cause more damage than inflexibility will.
- Closure of alternatives
- Closure, or exclusion, of alternatives does not present inherent difficulties in achieving high-quality decisions. However, premature closure of alternatives, or continuing exclusion of alternatives in the face of repeated failure, does threaten decision quality.
- When a group enforces or accepts closure of alternatives in the face of failure of its chosen course, lock-in is likely in place. One exception: a person or people who have power over the group's decisions can impose closure. In this case, the lock-in has occurred not in the decision-making group, but in the mind of the person executing the closure.
Detecting lock-in in your organization can be difficult if you're one of the decision makers. To practice, use a different organization — your national or local government probably provides some truly rich examples. First in this series Top Next Issue
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenTiOsOVnmVbFsjUtvner@ChaceAIjTABJqvCUfgvzoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Message Mismatches
- Sometimes we misinterpret the messages we receive — what we see or hear. It's frustrating, and
tempers can flare on both sides. But if we keep in mind two ideas, we can reduce the effects of message
- Some Costs of COTS
- As a way of managing risk, we sometimes steer our organizations towards commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)
components, methodologies, designs, and processes. But to gain a competitive edge, we need creative
- TINOs: Teams in Name Only
- Perhaps the most significant difference between face-to-face teams and virtual or distributed teams
is their potential to develop from workgroups into true teams — an area in which virtual or distributed
teams are at a decided disadvantage. Often, virtual and distributed teams are teams in name only.
- Organizational Loss: Searching Behavior
- When organizations suffer painful losses, their responses can sometimes be destructive, further harming
the organization and its people. Here are some typical patterns of destructive responses to organizational
- Take Charge of Your Learning
- Many of us let others set our learning agendas — peers, employers, or the mass media. But you
can gain much both personally and professionally by setting your own learning agenda.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 24: Understanding Delegation
- It's widely believed that managers delegate some of their own authority and responsibility to their subordinates, who then use that authority and responsibility to get their work done. That view is unfortunate. It breeds micromanagers. Available here and by RSS on January 24.
- And on January 31: Nine Brainstorming Demotivators: I
- The quality of the output of brainstorming sessions is notoriously variable. One source of variation is the enthusiasm of contributors. Here's Part I of a set of nine phenomena that can limit contributions to brainstorm sessions. Available here and by RSS on January 31.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenockuhFSMMJtvsyUxner@ChaciLjvTHiaOKpbJmQHoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program: