Meeting Torture Technique: Rediscussing Issues

TortureMany medical groups make a decision and then re-visit it over and over again.

This situation comes about when a few members of the group do not get their way in the first vote. They then use this strategy to either torture the group into changing the decision, or to paralyze the group.

When other group members state their frustration about the problems revisiting an issue will cause, the physicians who want to revisit the issue typically respond that additional information has come to light which they believe should be considered in making the decision. This can go on ad infinitum and the ability to pursue key opportunities (or the ability to avoid key threats) can be lost.

Many organizations suffer from this problem, but the situation is more challenging for medical groups where the shareholder physicians are usually equal owners of the practice. Some physician shareholders believe that equal ownership gives them the right to have a say about every issue at any time they want (and often waste precious group meeting time). While it is true they are shareholder physicians are usually equal owners, medical groups have the ability to prevent this perceived “right” from being used as a “torture” technique.

Speed Bump

One way to reduce the use of this “torture” technique (revisiting issues over and over again) is to put a “speed bump” for items to return to the agenda for discussion.

For example, the group could implement a policy that requires 30% of the shareholders to sign a document asking to bring an item back to the floor for rediscussion once a decision has been made (it is important that they sign a document, rather than someone say “I had 30% of the people say they’d like to rediscuss this issue”).

This policy doesn’t close the door to rediscussing an issue (if more than 30% want to re-discuss an issue, the group probably should). However, it will typically reduce the number of times this “torture” technique is used.

Supermajority to Overturn Board Votes

Medical groups that have a Board of Directors (composed of a subset of the shareholders) face the problem that individual shareholders will want to rediscuss decisions made by the Board that are clearly within the authority of the Board (I will have a lot to say about “authority” in later articles).

You can use the “speed bump” discussed above for Board decisions, but another strategy is to create a policy that, to overturn a decision of the Board that is within their level of authority, a super-majority vote of the shareholder will be required. This strengthens your Board and make the Board members more confident in making decisions that are best for the group.

Control of Agenda

A third solution is to empower the President or the Executive Committee to decide what to include and what not to include in the agenda of larger group meetings.


Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Will Latham

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