res judicata

"Hey, we've decided, let's move on..."

Consciously or subconsciously, we are constantly making decisions. Some of them small such as deciding what to wear for work that day or what to eat to lunch. Others are more important such as picking a candidate from a group of interviewees or choosing a software that meets the needs of the division. A few could have much larger impact or even life changing such as deciding which company to join or who to marry!

With respect to time, some are spot decisions while for others we take our time deciding depending on the impact the decision carries. This is extremely important and a prudent thing to do. Tony Robbins puts it nicely – he says “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped”. In an organisational context, when the decision is made in a group, different decision making styles are used depending on various factors such as time available, organisation culture and the potential impact of the decision. Sometimes, we do not the luxury of abundant time to take decisions and must do the best we can under the circumstances. Within that time, we need to identify all the possible alternatives to choose from, analyse them and then go ahead and choose the best one.  

But once a decision is made, the focus needs to shift fully from analysis to implementation. This probably explains why some people are excellent in analysis but not so good in decision making. When they continuously evaluate the alternatives to make the choice as perfect as possible, they are unable to take a decision. In other words, they develop “Analysis Paralysis.” When a group takes a decision and some members of the group continue the analysis, it severely impedes future progress for the group.

Something like this recently happened in our housing complex. Some key decisions impacting the larger community were to be taken which involved substantial time and investment. The Management committee (MC) evaluated the alternatives and brought it’s recommendation to the general body in an Extraordinary General Body meeting (EGM). The matter was discussed at length in the EGM and finally a decision taken on that matter. Unfortunately, some residents did not agree with this decision and felt strongly enough about the issue to take a legal route. Once the matter went legal, the MC also took legal opinion and of the different things suggested by the legal counsel, a key one was the principle of “Res Judicata.”

Res Judicata simply means “a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties.” The notion is perhaps mostly to avoid unnecessary waste of resources in the court system. Res judicata does not merely prevent future judgements from contradicting earlier ones, but also prevents litigants from multiplying judgements, and confusion. I found the entire notion of Res Judicata pretty interesting because it is the legal equivalent of not opening up a decision once it has been made!

Organisations can benefit immensely through faster decision making and strategy implementation if the notion of Res Judicata gets embedded in its culture. While people have all the room to negotiate, sell their ideas and build consensus till the decision is reached, it needs to be binding once it’s made. For those whose ideas are not aligned to the final decision, they too need to move on by agreeing to disagree and showing commitment. Putting up roadblocks or trying to rake up the topic in other groups or forums is a strict no-no. Doing so, it can end up paralysing the entire organisation!

I would love to hear your views. Kindly post your comments and feel free to write to me at