Using Fair Process to Make Better Decisions: Examples

Fair process is a decision-making approach that gives those who will be most impacted by a decision the opportunity to help shape it. You, the manager, are the decision-maker, but you engage stakeholders upfront to gather input, anticipate risks, and identify alternatives—leading to better decisions and better buy-in.

In addition to our quick-start guide for fair process, we have examples of four different types of decisions and how to use the FAIR framework to arrive at the final outcome.

Example 1: Hiring a Chief Operating Officer

SaveTheForests is a 40-person anti-deforestation advocacy group that is planning to hire a COO for the first time to keep up with their rapid growth. They plan to hire externally and have also created a shortlist of candidates they want to bring into the interview process. The COO will touch every part of the organization—the CEO believes that for such a key hire, bringing in a broad range of staff into the hiring process is key.

FRAMEDecision Maker: CEODecision Mode: Consult
ASKWho to Involve: Team members who would eventually be the new COO’s direct reports. Staff from different levels of the organization to test for alignment to core values; and race, equity, and inclusion (REI) competencies.
How to Involve: Use senior team members to define the “must haves” and involve them in the formal interview process. Debrief after each interview to surface perspectives and misalignments. Involve other staff members informally (such as taking candidates out for coffee) or as part of simulations.
INFORMInforming staff of the final decision: Typically via email* or during a staff call; acknowledge input and effort from the team in the hiring process.
REVISITSample Reflection Questions:
- “Did we involve a diverse set of interviewers with respect to gender, race, and other aspects of identity?”
- “How did you think the process went?”
- “What can we do to help the new COO settle into their role quickly?”

*Sample Email:

Hello All,

I’m delighted to announce that XYZ will be joining us as our first-ever COO. XYZ will start on June 1st and will work from our San Francisco office.

I want to thank AB for owning the hiring process from end-to-end and completing it in a record eight weeks. While I was the final decision-maker, I had the good fortune of being supported by a stellar interviewing team of PQ, RS, DQ, EY, and PW.

We had 30 applicants, out of which 20 passed the initial screen. We moved 6 to second-round interviews and simulations. At one point, I had my heart set on a particular candidate but DQ and EY convinced me that they did not have the E&I competencies we needed in this role. We had two finalists—and while XYZ is not based in Seattle as we would have preferred, we thought she was the best overall fit. So, we made the trade-off on her location and she has committed to traveling to Seattle two days per week.

Every step of the way, the interviewing team helped me pressure-test my thinking and used the hiring rubric to stay focused on our must-haves. I’m delighted that we’ve arrived at this outcome and I hope each of you will help XYZ come onboard smoothly and create tremendous impact from Day 1!


Example 2: Developing a Remote Work Policy

LegalStars is an organization that provides pro bono legal services to the community. As they’ve grown from ten staff all based in a single office in Washington DC to a group of more than 40, several staff members have lobbied the ED to allow for remote work. While the ED is generally amenable to the idea, he wants to make sure they are making a fair and equitable decision that impacts all current and future employees. He also knows that some managers are concerned about being able to hold their team members accountable when they aren’t in the same place, and he’s nervous about offering a new benefit when he knows he will never want to “take it away.” He asks the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for a recommendation.

FRAMEDecision Maker: COODecision Mode: Test
ASKWho to Involve: All staff, since the policy will be applicable to everyone. With a particular emphasis on: managers who are responsible for delivering team-level outcomes; people who might benefit most from remote work (such as staff who are caregivers, folks with commutes longer than 45 minutes); people least likely to be able to take advantage of a remote work policy (such as admin and front office staff).How to Involve: The COO tests three options—“no remote work,” “based on manager discretion,” and “remote work as default.” She uses a combination of surveys, focus groups, and in-person interviews with managers and selected staff. The process helps surface pros, cons, and mitigations as well as a new option which forms the basis of the final policy.
INFORMInforming staff of the final decision: Staff are sent the new policy to read through, and the COO sets aside time during an all-staff meeting to answer any questions.
REVISITSample Reflection Questions:
- “Did we involve folks that are most likely to be impacted by the decision?”
- “What triggers would cause us to revisit the policy?”
- “How do we adapt our current management practices (such as check-ins and all staff meetings) to smoothly incorporate remote work?”

Example 3: Planning for an Office Renovation

The Lyra Group is a 20-person organization that provides services to low-income immigrants in a large metropolitan area. Lyra currently operates from a building in the center of the city, occupying the first and second floors. They recently received a grant to renovate their offices. Working with an architect that was offering his services pro-bono, Lyra’s Chief of Staff (who is leading the project) has come up with a potential plan. Lyra has a strict budget of $50,000 for the renovation that came from a single grant. The work needs to be completed within six months.

FRAMEDecision Maker: Chief of StaffDecision Mode: Test
ASKWho to Involve: Program director, since their staff uses the office for client meetings. Front desk staff people who greet and conduct intake for clients. Regular volunteers who help deliver services.How to Involve: One-on-one interviews to surface office space needs and requirements. Conversations bring up the need for better security for front desk staff and for gender-neutral bathrooms to make clients feel more welcome—two things that were not in the original plan.
INFORMInforming staff of the final decision: Via email acknowledging the changes to the plan based on staff input.
REVISITSample Reflection Questions:
- “Did we involve those that would be most impacted by the decision?”
- “Did we get a good proxy for client voice in the process?”
- “How did you think the process went?”

Example 4: Devising a Program Strategy

SaveMore is a 15-person organization that provides training to low-income households on financial practices. Their primary offering is a 2 hr/week, two-month training on budgeting and financial basics in four counties in Virginia. As they prepare their strategic plan for the next year, the Program Director is wrestling with how to decide among several options—funders have suggested that they expand into more counties and also offer Spanish language classes, program staff feel that they should pair the training with a coaching program to ensure clients follow through on the practices they learn from training, and community partners have recommended that they start a program for high schoolers to instill good practices.

FRAMEDecision Maker: Program DirectorDecision Mode: Consult
ASKWho to Involve: Program staff, Finance staff, clients, fundersHow to Involve: Survey of clients, one-on-one interviews with funders and community partners, multiple group conversations with program staff
INFORMInforming stakeholders of the final decision: Presentation to funders and community partners at a special recognition gala; via email* to staff, plus opportunities at staff meetings for Q&A
REVISITSample Reflection Questions:
- “Did we truly listen to all stakeholders?”
- “Did we get a good proxy for client voice in the process?”
- “Did we explain our final choice and why we made that choice in a way that makes sense to all our stakeholders?”

*Sample Email:

Hello All,

I’m happy to inform you that after a thoughtful process we have narrowed down our program priorities for the coming year. There are more details in the attached presentation, but here are the highlights:

  • We will be expanding our services to two more counties in Virginia, thereby impacting 800 more households in our target group
  • We are entering into an innovative partnership with a Latinx community organization that will be our first-ever “training delivery partner.” We will train their staff to deliver our content in Spanish to 400 households.
  • We will be piloting a small “coaching program” where we will coach 10 households for six months to better study the impact of our coaching services. One of our funders has agreed to cover the costs of this pilot.
  • While it is a great idea, we have decided we will not be offering training to high-school students at this point because we don’t have the management capacity to oversee such an expansion.

While we made some hard choices, I am confident we have made good choices that will deliver impact to the community while strengthening us as an organization. We couldn’t have come to these choices without your input and the active involvement of our funders, clients, and community partners. In fact, the idea of partnering and training another organization with deep roots in the Latinx community was something a partner organization brought up. All of you actively engaged, debated, and pressure-tested ideas, and built on each other’s perspectives and listened deeply throughout this process. I’m grateful to our ED for her thought partnership and hands-on help throughout. What a joy it is to be on such a committed team!

We have several sessions lined up to share our plan with all our stakeholders. Please come to me with any and all questions in the meanwhile.

Program Director