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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Pakistan: Follow the Tenth Man Rule

           The Government of Pakistan and all its institutions earnestly need to follow “The Tenth Man Rule” for better decision making and for application of potential risk free and a comprehensive set of best conceivable options for the achievement of national interests. This applies to the legislature i.e. both houses of the parliament, the Judiciary and the executives; besides all other national institutions, ministries and industries, whether public or private. ‘The Tenth Man Rule’ means that If nine individuals in a group of ten people receive the same information and agree on a resolution, it's the responsibility of the tenth man to protest, highlight all potential issues with that resolution, and argue the case for unlikelier scenarios – even if they're on the same page as the other nine. This idea postulates that the tenth person becomes the devil's advocate, who should always disagree and point out the flaws of the group's conclusion and he is responsible for disproving the others, even if they agree. However, in this concept, dragging down the nominated or otherwise blessed person with the quality to be a Tenth Man, is like killing the messenger, which is self-defeating; though much prevalent in Pakistani society as a norm.

An organisation is often considered harmonious when its employees present themselves as a cohesive and cooperative unit. While harmony is an important component to organisational growth, unfortunately, it doesn’t always translate to organisational growth. In an evolving state like Pakistan, faced with a multitude of challenges in all the fields, most of the time organisational biases and groupthink prevail, creating silos and skewed personal agendas. These attributes and characteristics are persistent in almost all national organisations and rooting them out has proven difficult. But for an organisation to grow and adapt to change, removing these impediments is critical.

This is where the Tenth Man Rule comes in. First developed and applied by the Israeli intelligence during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 in response to the poor planning, today due to its applicability in a variety of situations, even Knesset follows it like the Ten Commandments and other businesses have also applied it to accelerate growth. Essentially, the adversary in all situations but one weaponised toward helping the organisation emerge with a stronger, clearer, and airtight solution. However, to advance the effectiveness of the Tenth Man Rule, the idea of the observe-orient-decide-act (OODA) loop may also be incorporated.  For example, when faced with a dilemma, the speaker of the house, the head of any public institution or a CEO of a private company can assign two independent groups (let’s call them the red & blue teams). Each team will represent an opposing view of the decision. One defends the initial stance of the Head/ CEO while the other refutes it. In this situation, the teams (rather than an actual tenth individual) will represent the Tenth Man Rule. As the presentations go, both teams and the head/ CEO cycle through the OODA loop. They will observe their situation together, orient possible opportunities, decide which ones to move towards, and they act based on that decision. In the process, they not only shift the nature of the debate rather than rhetorical speeches but also improve the quality of the decision-making process. Interestingly, there can be multiple repetitions of this process.

For example, Warren Buffet uses the classic case mentioned above by hiring two investment advisers to make opposing cases. In a Harvard Business Review article, Bill Gates shares that Buffet utilised this process in the acquisition of various investments such as the Berkshire Hathaway to make sure it is a profitable venture. From a dying textile company, Berkshire Hathaway now owns multiple companies including GEICO and Dairy Queen. It also owns significant holdings in public companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, and the Bank of America. On the other hand, Steve Jobs uses a variation of this process in which his employees would make a case about developing a possible Apple product while he would play the devil’s advocate. This method enabled him to lead Apple in transforming technology and communication with the development and release of seminal consumer products like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

If someone is still unconvinced or struggling to visualise the actual impact from using this strategy, here are just five of the best benefits you stand to gain: risks and uncertainties are minimized, the organisation is prepared to face any changes, group-think and organisational biases are mitigated, most, if not all, possible solutions to a problem are considered thus, helping decision makers take the best course of action and the organisation maintains a competitive edge as decisions made are effective and proactive.

The decision makers in Pakistan need to realise the significance and efficacy of the discussed ‘Tenth Man Rule’ and ‘OODA’ both in public and private sectors for achievement of the best results as quoted above. If you know what the risk is, you’ll plan for every outcome. The OODA Loop in conjunction with the ‘Tenth Man Rule’ creates an environment where decision makers are taught to think in this manner, all the time. Don’t ask, who will bell the cat; we all can. Pakistan’s Armed Forces practice it to some extent during their War Games/ military exercises by playing Blue Land and Fox Land teams; let’s try it in all national decision making in Pakistan. Let’s take a start by valuing and honouring those individuals and small teams who are blessed and capable of acting as a Tenth Man rather than nipping them in the bud for prevalence of stale and sycophancy based self-serving national decisions and policies. Pakistan Zindabad!


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