(February 8, 2012) The recently announced new members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (what a wonderful platform they have for the announcement – the Super Bowl) made me think about their process:
- Get every voter in a room together,
- Hash it out,
- Get ‘er done!
It’s a little like making cookies, but the question for me are they commercially baked, store-bought cookies or are they homemade cookies?
For 16 years I served as chair of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Hall of Fame Committee. The committee had two processes for election: one was an independent vote by mail for currently eligible members in which each member of the committee was to exercise independent judgment, and a second process for veteran coaches that involved a committee meeting and group discussion of the candidates, a process similar to that which the Pro Football Hall of Fame uses.
I found having a discussion about candidates to be helpful, but I also thought at times it became like the commercial cookie, subject to group think with each committee member seemingly reinforcing the next. Independent judgment may be blunted in these circumstances. On reflection I must admit to thinking we got hooked in on one or two candidates early and may have missed some better candidates because one or two committee members moved the group as a whole.
I thought about this when four of the six members of the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class were primarily linemen. Did the discussion become more focused on these positions for some reason? Was the discussion skewed by a few of the participants and their strong presence? As the results of successive voting moved forward, did someone note this was happening? In my experience, probably not until sometime after the process had run its course and reflection set in.
How to combat circumstances that might lead to group think and potentially unintended consequences? One of the ways is by having timeouts in the process. Give the committee members time to be reflective and process the discussion before moving toward a vote or toward a consensus agreement. Another is to take a macro-look at the process as it proceeds. Ask questions like:
- Have we over-emphasized some aspect of the discussion?
- Are only a few of the committee members really participating?
- Has comment from every committee member been encouraged before we start moving toward a vote or conclusion?
- How does the impending decision the group is moving toward compare with what I personally thought before it began? Why?
These are some of the ways to keep a group discussion of candidates from becoming a group think and having the induction class look more like the store-bought cookies than the home made ones, which we all believe are tastier and healthier!
Jack Huckel, Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates, offers election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. Jack served the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum as Director of Museum and Archives for 9-1/2 years after more than 10 years as a volunteer. More information is available at the firm’s web site. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518/852-3033.
Jack is a member of the International Sports Heritage Association and is a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Board of Directors’ Executive Committee. He will become president of the NSCAA in January of 2013.