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The Decision Making Process (DMP)


t is widely understood that people can accomplish complex tasks working together, with much less effort than working as individuals.

A group where each family member must find and cook their own food, for instance, will have far less time for other activities, compared to a group where finding and preparing food, cleaning up after meals etc. is coordinated between all group members.

However, coordinating activities requires management skills that don’t come naturally to most of us. Without skilled leadership, it is difficult for people to act as a team.

A lack of leadership may result in family members feeling exploited in different ways;

  • weaker members may feel bossed around and that their needs are not being considered
  • stronger members may feel that weaker members are overly dependent on their time and resources.

Each may feel that more than their fair share of the unpaid labour in the group is expected of them.

If left unaddressed, these feelings may cause ongoing resentment.

Skilful leadership requires that each and every member of the group has needs that must be known and considered.


Quality agreements help groups run efficiently and avoid conflict. They take time, however, and will break down without 100% consensus.

Taking the time to first agree on all of the elements of our family fundamentals—roles especially—will save considerable time day-to-day. There are still times, however, when agreements outside these areas will need to be made.

These may include the following:

a. Holiday or vacation plans.

b. Life path decisions about each other’s work and career and how these decisions influence everyone.

c. Renting or buying a new house and/or moving.

d. Big purchases.

e. How money is shared.

f. Problems one member may have with how another is handling their portfolio.

g. Accountability.

h. Coordinating schedules and plans for free time.

These areas should be discussed until a 100% consensus is reached. One party should not feel they can make these decisions on behalf of the family, just as one person should not be left in a position where they must make these decisions on their own.

The DMP Process

Running a DMP is simple but not easy. It requires patience and optimism from all members of the group. It also requires leaders to use creative thinking.

If you grow impatient when listening to other people’s needs, it may help to remind yourself that if you truly want peace and prosperity in your home, there is no other way to move forward. Losing your patience and feeling you can rush the process will cost you when the issue either bogs down or conflict arises (now or in the future) because a true consensus was not genuinely achieved.

To run a successful DMP, we need to be solid in our own position while allowing everyone else in the family to feel solid in theirs. To achieve this, we must learn how to even up the power balance and get everyone on the same page.

Aim of the Decision-Making Process (DMP)

The primary aim of the DMP is to bring balance to your life and to help your family make high-quality decisions, agreements and plans. There will be hundreds of spin-off benefits from this, but planning and forming solid agreements is the main goal.

Quality agreements and plans should:

  1. Provide for everyone’s needs without compromise. Each member might not get exactly what they want but everyone’s needs must be considered and met. This is one of the toughest challenges you will face but it will bring lasting peace to your home.
  2. Add to the health and prosperity of all members.
  3. Not depend on exploiting or disadvantaging anyone outside the family (not only as a moral stance but to help protect the group from external threat).

Rules of Engagement

  1. This is a game without losers. The success of meetings depends on the family leaders ability to make sure everyone wins.
  2. No member of the household (or extended family) should be allowed to walk away from a DMP in process. Keeping everyone engaged is the first challenge.

“I don’t care what you decide” or “Leave me out of it” won’t do. These kinds of comments guarantee conflict down the line. An agreement cannot be sealed unless every member has given their consent.

To achieve this, an atmosphere of inclusion must be built on patience and sharing historical examples of trust and understanding. When have you worked together well in the past? Remember these times and find photos and mementos if possible.

This preparation must be made in advance so you can have something to talk about if a family member gets angry and starts to leave.

Action Point: Is there a family member who might resist taking part in this process?

Take time to remember when you did something enjoyable with this person that you both (or all) had some input in planning. Be ready to talk warmly about this memory and even share photos or other mementos.

Trust cannot be forced, so adequate time should be given to this preparation.

As a final option, if a member will not participate, their share of the family resources may need to be suspended or withheld (pocket money, use of cars, credit cards, etc.) until they agree to participate. These kinds of bans should be imposed with strength, not anger. It’s simple. As a matter of fairness, from now on family resources can only be distributed with everyone’s input on agreements.

  1. Good leaders maintain authority by protecting the space.

Once the DMP process gets started, each member will be taking turns sharing their problems, needs and goals. Good leaders must create a ‘safe space’ so this can occur. The meeting must have privacy. Safe also means that any aggression, emotional manipulation, interrogation or impatience, must be kept out of negotiations.

Solid and lasting agreements cannot be made by coercion. Everyone must be given a chance to speak and to feel that their needs are important and will be considered.

Leaders can decide whether all members of the family should be together for the process, or whether some members should be given the chance to speak privately. While it is good that all family members are aware of each other’s needs (and this type of DMP should certainly happen sometimes), at other times privacy may be important—especially between siblings likely to tease each other.

Trust needs to be built for everyone to feel they can participate and be honest about their needs.

  1. The family’s mission and basic roles should be agreed upon at the first few DMPs. Once this process is complete, make sure no one is reporting to more than one person for a chore or responsibility.
  2. Agreements work in stages. Once the basic foundations have been laid, further agreements, on just about anything, can be reached.
  3. Everyone’s needs should be presented to the leaders who should also take turns stating their own needs (that are relevant to the family). It is their role to ask questions and to gain an understanding of each family member’s situation. Other members should interject only once the main question and answer time (for each member) is finished.
  4. A time-out of five minutes can (and should) be called on any member (including a leader) who is using aggressive or manipulative communication. A T hand-sign will do. This, or similar, should require that a time-out come into play instantly, without discussion. This time might be used to make a hot or cold drink, or for everyone to stretch their legs.

It is up to the member who had the time-out called on them to think about how they are presenting themselves and try and get the meeting back on track with more optimism their needs will be heard and considered. If they won’t, the DMP should be rescheduled and no agreement registered. This may require a freeze on shared family resources until an agreement can be reached.

Postponing agreements may be frustrating and feel non-productive, but learning how to get on with your life, even when a family member is being aggressive or emotionally manipulative, is one of the most powerful steps you can take to bring stability to your family.

It will probably be difficult for you to change your old habits and to stop jumping in to try and smooth things over (by giving the aggressive family member what they want), but that old habit is really feeding a monster.

As long as you keep yourself safe, finding the courage to hold your ground and wait for them to be ready to come back to the negotiating table will, in the end, be good for everyone.

Until an agreement is reached, nothing in regard to the agreement should be allowed to proceed. No one should be allowed to gain an advantage from holding up the decision-making process. For instance, if the agreement is about changing arrangements regarding picking up or dropping off family members in the morning or afternoon, members may need to get the bus home or leave the current system in place until a new agreement can be arrived at.

Let’s Run a DMP!

1. The leader presents a rough outline of what they hope the group can accomplish together. This may be as simple as everyone getting to work and school on time or as complex as coordinating all member’s long term life goals.

It is vital Good leaders have some ideas to put forward but not have made a final decision before hearing everyone’s needs.

An optimistic foundation must be established that a positive agreement can be reached together without compromise.

If the group has enough patience and creativity in problem solving, a better plan will always be found than what members could have each come up with on their own.

For this to succeed, Good leaders will need to give time in the beginning establishing trust with the group.

2. The family leaders should encourage each member to express their needs in regard to achieving the goal.

Group leaders should help members keep an open mind about ways in which their needs can be fully met. To achieve this, it is important leaders help members discern between needs and wants. For example; a need might be requiring 8 hours sleep to function, while a want might be wanting to be allowed to sleep until 10am.

The success of this process depends almost entirely on the group’s ability to let go of their own preconceived ideas of how their needs will be best met and allow for a creative process of problem solving.

Side tracking onto needs in unrelated areas should not be allowed.  If the family is talking about getting to work and school on time, it is not the time to be talking about members needs around plans for the weekend. Because the connection may not be clear at first, some leniency, should be given to members expressing needs that may at first appear outside the scope of the goal.

“How will solving your needs regarding the issue you are talking about now help us all to achieve the goal we are talking about today?” may be a good question to have ready.

For example: The family is discussing how to coordinate the household in the morning. When it’s Jane’s turn she starts talking about needing help with a subject she is struggling with at school. Dad asks, “How will solving the problems you are having with English help us all get out of the house more smoothly in the morning?”

The topic does not seem related, until Jane answers, “I am so worried about falling behind in English that it’s keeping me awake at night. I don’t fall asleep until so late that it makes it hard for me to get up in the morning. I am sorry that I have been taking that out on mum. I used to do well in English, but now I just don’t understand the new teacher we have and am really scared that I am going to fail.”

Although seemingly unrelated at first, Jane’s need is related to the goal and her need is urgent. This information may in fact be key to why the morning routine has recently broken down. By the end of the meeting part of the agreement includes Jane’s mother scheduling a phone call to the school to see if she can help Jane move to a different class.

3. Group leaders encourage the group to ask questions and ensure that everyone is patient and respectful while each other talk.

This may take some policing and limits should be set if the discussion becomes emotional. Time outs should be called in this case and discussion only continued when members can remain respectful and calm.

Emotions will most likely flare if members are too rigid in their determination to ‘get their way’ and feel that listening to others’ suggestions might cause them to ‘lose’.

Most of us see “negotiation” as win/win, win/lose or compromise situation.  This type of negotiation at it’s worst is an outright tug-of-war of competing and irreconcilable interests. But what if instead we saw negotiating the same way that we see “negotiating” a path through tricky terrain? In this case we are moving forward together, collectively finding the best way. How is this different? First, it presupposes that everyone wants a great outcome together, so it feels more positive and open and secondly, includes far fewer fixed positions.

Trouble Shooting and Advanced Skills

If you are experiencing difficulty with family members negativity here are some ideas to try:

  1. Family leaders can refer to the OLF (Operating Life Formula) throughout the DMP as a guide for dealing with negativity in themselves, their partner and/or other family members. You may also want to check what level each family member feels they are at in the OLF Levels Summary and print out the corresponding worksheet for them.

Print out the 2 pages before your next meeting and laminate the pages back to back. When dealing with negativity, scan one side and see which negative number the offending member is operating at. Then flip the card over and look for the corresponding positive number. Use the positive attributes of that number to respond. For instance:

Joe brings up a long standing gripe with his mother, claiming that her negative tone of voice when she asks him to do things (often for the 5 or 6th time) has made him angry and not able to be responsible for himself. Dad looks at the card and decides on – 9 Emotionally Distraught, “You stop the positive progress of others or yourself through manifesting unsolvable dramas as a distraction.”  He then turns the card over and sees that + 9 is Stability, “You can secure and control what happens in and around the success of your area of responsibility; your personal space is beautiful.”

Dad says to Joe: “That sounds like something you need to bring up with your mother outside of this meeting, following our conflict resolution process. I am here to make sure you are secure and in control of what happens in and around the success of your area of responsibility.  Perhaps you would start feeling better if you just decided to get your room clean.”

Later (outside the DMP) mum embarks on the conflict resolution process showing empathy for Joe’s feelings, (but as is included in that policy, states clearly that she will not take responsibility for his irresponsibility or wrong doing).


Jane begins bad mouthing a relative she does not want to get stuck talking to at a gathering the family is planning. Instead of talking about her needs, Jane’s words are insulting towards a number of distant family members (not present). Mum looks at the OLF Levels Card and decides on -11 Gossip, “Malicious talk about others or yourself… “ Mum then turns the card over and sees that +11 is New Awareness “You acknowledge your achievements and those who helped you; you use products or artefacts to assist others in also achieving this state.”

Mum says to Jane: “You are a talented and successful girl Jane. Remember the mathematics award you brought home last month and how your brother helped you study for that test? (mum gets the award off the shelf and hands it to Jane). I am sure that we can all help make sure you don’t get stuck with your aunt this year.”


Dad is complaining about needing help with the yard work. The truth is that although Dad has agreed to yard work as his role, with Joe as his assistant, dad never makes a time or asks Joe to help. It is obvious to mum that Joe is not really the problem. Mum scans the OLF Levels Card and decides on – 6 Lack of Integrity, “You said you would do or not do something, and you did the opposite without trying to correct it or make amends.” She flips the card over and sees that +6  is Certainty, “You are truly aligned and actively following your goals and purposes, and have the cash reserves to achieve them; you have confidence to move into any area.”

Mum says to Dad: “Maybe you are not really aligned with your role of being in charge of the yard work? Perhaps you would feel better helping get our internet and TV problems sorted out (dad is an AV guy) and we can hire someone to help with the yard?”

In this example we will carry through and look at what will often happen as the negative person begins spiralling up…

Dad now moves to -5 Greed, “You’re right and they’re wrong; you’re guarded and wary of people; you hold yourself and others back; you don’t use your wealth to help others, and you will take from others when they are down.”

Dad says: “We can’t afford that! As if I can support every other business in this town.”

Mum flips the card over and sees that +5  is Assets, “You redefine your assets within each area and within your life, including family and friends.”

She says: “You just bought that new lawnmower and edge trimmer and so you won’t need to employ a business. Joe might like to take charge as manager of the yard and work for a bit or extra pocket money?”

Dad says: “Well if he can use that lawnmower he is smarter than me. I have tried twice and it has made me feel like an idiot. I think I have bought a dud.”

Mum sees dad has now spirals up to -4 Self-Doubt, “A lack of faith or belief in yourself, you have lost your reason for being, your direction, or your purpose in life.”

Mum flips the card over and sees that +4  is the Value of Usefulness, “You are setting up operations to deliver within each area what your research has determined will work well in the future.”

Mum says: “You gave it a try, but I don’t think the yard is really your thing. How about you get our internet and TV working better like you have always wanted to and let me get someone in to help Joe with the lawnmower?”

Dad says: “Yes I thought I could get into it, but honestly I hate the idea of cutting grass. No wonder I keep putting it off.”

Mum sees Dad is now spiralling up and out of -3 Holding Yourself Back, “You have an adverse reaction to your environment; you need to identify what it is you did or didn’t do that created that. This is the anchor that is slowing you down.”

She flips the card over and sees that +3  is Security, “You tighten up all areas to maintain the success achieved; you are a leader and a setter of standards in the field(s) you are involved with; you are creating cooperation and teamwork through good systems and structures.”

Mum says: “Well knowing you, I bet you have actually bought a great lawnmower. Purchasing equipment is always something you do well. Perhaps we should all agree now that your role should be changed to AV Manager and Joe will take over as Yard Maintenance Manager with a little hired help if he needs it?”

Joe says (sheepishly): “Yeah Dad I don’t think yard-work will ever be your thing. It might be easier if I just give it a go on my own.”

Dad now flips out of negativity and is happy that he will now have time to work on projects he is more aligned with.

Trouble Shooting:

– If a conflict arises in this process (someone shows they are feeling angry or hurt) that the OLF Levels Card does not solve, move to using our family fundamentals conflict resolution process.

– If a family member is regularly stuck at the same negative number in the OLF levels, refer to that number in the the OLF Playbook. You can also print out the full page of recommendations for that number (from the download page here) and give it to them to work on.

– Read the debriefing section and decide if there might be bad programmes that need attention.

All in all there are a ton of tools here to fight negativity in your home. Study these resources until you are ready for your first DMP!

4. An agreement or plan should only be sealed when a solution is found that everyone agrees on and which meets everyone’s needs.

This does not mean that chaos should be allowed to prevail until a decision is reached. It simply means that members need to be reasonable if they want their needs considered in the new plan. For example, as things stand, the children getting to school on time in the morning may result in fights that lead them to lose privileges. Until they are ready to negotiate and allow everyone’s needs to be met, the prevailing system which is not really in their interest will remain.

5. DMP’s should also be run now and then with no goal in mind – but everyone encouraged to share their general problems and needs.

Patience and allowing everyone’s input will help soften the inevitable anger which sometimes will arise when a decision is made that gives family members what they need but not what they want. EG. a bed time imposed that allows everyone in the family enough sleep instead of children being allowed to sleep in.

Most importantly, if the families real needs have been discussed and addressed in the decision, good leaders should feel able to proceed with confidence (despite having to endure a few days of possible grizzling) and the groups circumstance improve as the decisions (and even better agreements) are implemented.

If talking things through is not possible without conflict, there may be solid limits that need to be put in place. Not everyone is mature enough to stick to an agreement, no matter how well thought out. You don’t ask a horse not to eat your garden, instead (and without asking) you put up a fence.

Family members that renege on agreements should have firm limits put in place to ensure the agreement is up-held with or without their cooperation.

In the case of a bedtime not being honoured, for instance, this might involve removing phones & computers from the offending child’s bedroom, or even shutting down the power. Parents should then open curtains in the morning until the child’s body clock is reset.

Older children may need a version of the cooperation game, where privileges are withheld (cars phones, money) until they accumulate 500 points. Points should be awarded for cooperation with commands and requests. Minus points should be awarded for refusing commands (“It’s time to get up, I need you at breakfast in 10 minutes.”). There is more on this game on the debriefing page here.

Or, in another for instance, if an adult partner is spending more than their share of the family’s income without agreement, arrangements should be made with the bank to separate bank accounts.

These limits should work within the framework of the original decision and not allow dissidents to scramble the group’s agreement structure.

Family Fundamentals

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Kim is the author of seven books on the topic of relationships and emotional intelligence.

A prolific multi-media content innovator, Kim has created and shared a library of articles and multi-media educational tools including radio shows,
movies and poetry on 'The NC Marriage', and 'The Love Safety Net'.

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