The malady which OpenProcess attempts to cure. When group decisions are being made, sometimes the issue is effectively determined by a subset of the group without the input (or sometimes, even without the knowledge) of the rest of the group. In the worst case, procedural tricks may be used to prevent some group members from having their proper say.

BackRoomDecision is a problem because usually the purpose of the group’s formation was for the entire group to discuss something and come to some sort of group decision, rather than for decisions to be made by some while others are ignored.

Classic examples

The classic example of a BackRoomDecision would be a small group of government policymakers having a clandestine meeting and deciding a policy issue not on its merits but because it helps them personally in some way; and where they do not want to have that discussion on the record because if they did, it would become clear to the citizens of that government that the correct decision is actually the other one.

But there are less evil scenarios, as well. Perhaps people on a committee meet privately and talk about an issue and come up with what they think is the best solution. Later on, another member of the committee proposes something different, but the aformentioned individuals don’t give the new idea proper consideration because their mind is made up. In this case, the third person may feel aggrieved because his idea was not given due consideration.

Difficult of measurement

In reality, it is difficult for anyone in a group to know whether a given group decision was secretly pre-determined by some clique. Hence, often arguments erupt as to whether a group is being run by BackRoomDecision s or not. \

Base rate probability unknown

There seems to be no consensus in society at large as to the probability of an individual being correct if they believe they are being blown off in this fashion. For example, looking at all the cases in which an individual in Western Society has a hunch that a committee which they are on is making BackRoomDecision s, is that hunch right 80% of the time? Is it wrong 80% of the time? If such hunches are usually correct, then individuals in such a position should probably publically protest, and others should probably listen to them. If such hunches are usually incorrect, then individuals in such a position should probably try to give others the benefit of the doubt, and others should probably ignore most accusations of back room dealing that they hear of. If you feel that a committee that you are on is being run from the back room, should you assume that such feelings are usually correct, and protest, or should you assume that such impressions are usually paranoia, and ignore them? Nobody seems to know.

My feeling is that different people make different assumptions as to the base rate. Some people assume that BackRoomDecision s are relatively common and try to expose it whenever possible. Other assume that they are relatively rare and try to keep things moving while avoiding damaging controversy. The second type of person may see the first type as a paranoid jerk who stirs up trouble, and the first type may see the second as either a naive pawn or perhaps a suspicious backroom operator. Of course, in addition to both kinds of well-meaning folks, there are plenty of true rats who try to cut others out of the loop on the one hand and also loudly accuse their innocent opponents of sinister back room machinations on the other.

Paranoia; further study needed

So, it seems that the situation is quite complex. The end result is that there are constant accusations that this or that group is being covertly controlled by some clique, that it can be difficult for group members to determine the validity or even the sincerity of these accusations, and that it is even more difficult for those outside the group to do so.

This seems like an interesting topic to study game-theoretically. Are there mathematically-measurable properties of the group’s decision-record (or other measurable facts) which could give a probability of corruption? Can mathematics be used to detect conspiracies (stochastically)?

An image of fairness

Because of all the uncertainty, sometimes members may incorrectly perceive that they have been cut out of the loop when in fact they have not been. Hence, it is necessary not just for groups to be fair, but also for them to avoid the image of impropriety.

Concrete suggestions

:In addition, such pre-discussions allow each member to more accurately gauge the feelings of the rest of the group before the meeting takes place; this may smooth over the feelings of the losers (who might now know that they may be in the minority), as well as aid group cohesion (because those with extreme points of view will modulate them to be more acceptable to the median viewpoint).

:Of course, such pre-discussions are contrary to OpenProcess, and may be regarded as a necessary evil. Perhaps some sort of new electronic group structure will allow meetings to be more continuous, removing the problem with someone abruptly being voted down at the meeting.

See also OutOfChannel



Wait- not to be a stickler, but- Isn’t this CopyingFromMeatball?? (Isn’t it inappropriate copying, in particular?)

I don’t know who originally wrote this, but this looks like MB stuff that we shouldn’t be copying, to my un-trained eye.

Is there something I don’t know here?

I started this page on MeatBall and later copied it here. I believe that I copied from a version that contained only my original writing. So it’s fine, copyright-wise.

Define external redirect: CopyingFromMeatball

EditNearLinks: MeatBall


The same page elsewhere: