Building an Effective "Council of No"

Organisations have various approaches to risk, for the most risk averse organisations it’s necessary to have an effective Council of No.

The aim of the council is to reduce all risk by minimising all movement because movement is a risky thing.

Building an effective Council of No can be a challenge so I thought I would give a brief guide to the members who you will need to give the appropriate level of restriction:

  • The Analysis Warlock – The role of the Analysis Warlock is to reduce risk by making sure that all possible analysis has been undertaken. The lack of a particular piece of analysis, no matter how irrelevant, is grounds to delay a decision and thus minimise movement.
  • The Accuracy Wizard – Accurate information is an absolute must for risk reduction. Any information that can be found to be in any way less than 100% accurate is too high a risk to enable decision making, 99.95% accuracy should never be regarded as good enough. Teams without the appropriate level of  accuracy should be sent away until they have the required accuracy. Remember, a delayed decision is as good as a No.
  • The Standards Overseer – Organisations have standard ways of doing thing. Any deviation from the standard way is in complete contravention of risk reduction and should be stamped out. Solutions should be made to fit with standards and it’s the role of the Standards Overseer to make sure that compliance is adhered to absolutely, any lack of compliance should allow a No statement to be provided. It’s also part of the Standards Overseer’s role to make sure that they find deviations from standards at the most detailed level.
  • The Process Bouncer – There is a process that needs to be followed, to the letter. Process is, of course, a vital tool to reduce risk, any misuse of or inability to follow the prescribed process is an easy No decision. The role of the Process Bouncer is to find the inevitable slippage in process rigour.
  • The Scope Coach – In every situation there are opportunities to inflate the scope.  Where opportunities or solutions do not have a large enough scope they should be encouraged to extend the scope. Once a scope has been extended to its breaking point it should then be reassessed by the Analysis Warlock and the Accuracy Wizard who are bound to find situations that are outside their sphere of comfort allowing a No position to be taken.
  • The Absent Gatekeeper – The role of the Absent Gatekeeper is, as the name suggest, to be absent but to be the only person with access to at least one of the locks on the door. The use of multiple locks on the door necessitates that all keys need to be available for a door to be opened thus enabling a persistent No statement to be maintained.
  • The Clarity Knight – There is always one more question for clarity that can be asked. While questions are being raised there is no need to move beyond a No position.
  • The History Repeater – It’s always possible to draw a parallel between a new solution and earlier poor experience. It doesn’t matter how tenuous the connection, the role of the History Repeater is to have enough history to enable those connections to be made. Raising previous poor experiences enables the addition of extra work for the Analysis Warlock and the Process Bouncer.
  • The External Person Advocate – There are always people outside the council who are going to be uncomfortable with the risk involved in a new solution, you hope. The role of the External Person Advocate is to know who those people could be in every situation and to raise those concerns within the council meetings. There is no need to check with the external person that they have the concerns that the Advocate is raising, the Advocate just has to be believable. These concerns are best raised in a situation where no clear route to resolution are identified. These actions will remove the ability for the council to close decision-making; a delay in decisions it as good as a No decision.
  • The Last Minute Alarm Ringer – If an opportunity or solution avoids all the road-blocks defined above the role of the Last Minute Alarm Ringer is to raise a concern of significant scale to enable a reset of the process and hence a restart of the revue cycle.

Please remember: without a complete team in the Council of No people will be able to get things done and that’s a very high risk approach.


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