I learned a lesson this week about making hasty choices. I'm in a book club – it has nothing to do with pupil transportation or the law, and I just love it. The club has met, since before I joined, at a local large book store that is quite close to my home. The members come from surrounding towns, and some of them have had to travel quite a distance for many years to come to our once-a-month meeting.
Recently, one of our members suggested having a trial meeting at a new library branch that is quite a bit more convenient for these more northern ladies, while still fairly convenient for those of us who live closer to the book store. We all understood that the purpose of the trial was a possible move. After a most enjoyable meeting there this week, we planned a vote on the three choices now available to us: to switch to the library, to stay at the bookstore or to have meetings at the library for 6 months followed by meetings at the bookstore.
I took very little time to consider my position – it didn't really matter to me. What did seem fair, however, was to emphasize the convenience of the greatest number of members, and a change to the library seemed to provide that. I didn't really consider the six months on, six months off choice, and, quite frankly, I don't know why. I also spent little time contemplating the biggest negative of the library: it's closed on school and government holidays, and we meet on Mondays, when many such holidays fall. The point is, I gave it very little thought.
And, it turned out, I didn't have what was for me, a very important piece of information. One of the emails sent by a member who voted to stay at the bookstore – sent, by the way, after I submitted my hasty vote – included the information that a move might mean that our long-term and absolutely excellent leader would not want to be the leader because of the additional inconvenience the move would pose for her. I would have voted differently if I'd known. While a move will have little impact on me, a change of leadership will matter to me very much.
It got me thinking: How often are we missing key pieces of information when we offer an opinion or make a decision? Our book club leader wanted the choice of location to be about place and not about her (that's what she told me when I asked if the other member's email was accurate), but I considered it an important piece of information and would have voted differently if I'd had it. Maybe the issue is that those who inform us may not know whether certain ramifications of a decision will be important to us. I wish I had thought to ask the right question. . .but if I'd just asked "Is there anything else we need to know," I doubt the leader would have told me, given her own decision that she shouldn't be a factor.
How thoughtful are the decisions you make? How well-informed? Do you ask that extra question? As I think about it now, I'm sorry I didn't take on the responsibility of saying – prior to casting my vote – "Here are the aspects of the book club that are important to me: will any of them be impacted by a change of venue." I wonder what would have happened.
Peggy Burns is the former in-house counsel for Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., and currently owns and operates Education Compliance Group, Inc., a legal consultancy specializing in education and transportation issues. She is also a frequent speaker at national and state conferences and is the editor of the publication Legal Routes that covers pupil transportation law and compliance.