Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Do You Employ the 10th Man Rule?

Image courtesy of dullhunk
When it's decision-making time, is there someone on your team who always plays devil's advocate?

And how do you view that person? Does he frustrate you? Or are you happy for an opposing view to drive alternative thinking or to facilitate deeper conversation?

Either way, there's a rule that outlines what that person is doing or should be doing; it's the 10th man rule.

The 10th man rule comes from Israel, where all (government/military) decisions are put before a panel of 10 people. When nine of the ten people completely agree that a particular decision is the way to go, it's the job of the 10th man to question the decision, to disagree, to take an opposing view so as to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink.

Honestly, I can't disagree with this approach. It reminds me of this General George S. Patton quote:
 If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.
And that reminds me of my approach to hiring. When I hire people, I look forward to having each person bring something of value, something different - different experiences, different perspectives. I want each person on my team to challenge the current approach, the current way of thinking, the traditional way of doing things.

I've also left a couple employers early in my CX career because the approach was: "We've always done things this way. We've done things this way for 40 years. We're going to continue doing them that way." Ugh. So frustrating. Let the record show: I hate that thinking!

And it also reminds me of situations where there have been employees who have stayed with companies for 15 or 20 or more years, who get comfortable with the way things are. Tenure is not a bad thing. But complacency is. Thinking we know everything there is to know is a bad thing, too.

How do we fix that? I can think of a couple ways:

  • encourage continuous learning, always being up to date on the latest industry happenings, technology, methodologies, approaches, etc.
  • hire new people, bring in different backgrounds and fresh perspectives
  • do your homework and research the pros, cons, alternatives, etc.
  • conduct a pre-mortem in your decision-making process
  • employ this 10th man rule

You don't actually have to have 10 people in a room making a decision. If you have fewer, call one person out to be the naysayer, the devil's advocate.

Have you used this, or a similar, approach before?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. -Albert Einstein



  1. Absolutely...cynics make good tenners and like mavericks are often proved right. The rule clearly flies in the face of that old unwanted adage, 'If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem' ie you need to be on-side... Maggie T used to say "men are clubable" but then so are women...this clubability may be the hub of commend/control...

    1. It does fly in the face of that old adage, but I'm ok with that! Time to move on, time to progress! Time to question groupthink and make sure the solution is really airtight.


  2. I like the idea, I think it is a little like Jeff Bezos and his customer chair.

    1. Good analogy. If it's not good/right for the customer, then go back to the drawing board.

  3. Hi Annette,
    I've heard of this idea before but didn't know the background to it so thank you for filling me in.

    I also think it would be a useful role to get different people to play in meetings as will not only help the project but will also help them develop perspective and critical thinking skills.


    1. I like that idea, Adrian. I like the notion of getting people in a position to think about opposing or contrary views as a critical thinking exercise.