Bob Piekiel from Banjo Newsletter writes:

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, I read an article where you described how members of HotRize made decisions – something about a “scale of importance” or words to that effect. You described a system where if somebody objected to something, the “intensity” of the objection would be rated compared to other opinions. I have never forgot your system here and realized that it was a good method for ALL relationships, whether band business, personal, etc. I’m not spelling it out here very well, but could you write that out again in your words so I could hear it described again?

Bob,

The voting system is explained in my book How to Make a Band Work (and I think later reprinted in Bluegrass Unlimited, but here it is in more detail:

Hot Rize decision making system:

Simple democracy, majority rules, but voting choices are expanded:

  1. Strong yes
  2. Mild yes
  3. Neutral/abstain
  4. Mild no
  5. Strong no
  6. Veto (one person can nix something if he just can’t live with it. Used very sparingly and judiciously)
  7. Proxy (I give my vote to _____, because he knows/cares more about this than I do, and want to support his take on the situation).


With these choices, there was no real need for “quantification” of the weight of a vote. It could have gotten dicey with “two mild no”s weighed against “one strong yes” and two abstains. (Our “fifth member”, soundman/road mgr Frank Edmonson, eventually got a full vote after first just being consulted when there was a tie.) But I don’t ever remember hitting a real impasse on any issue, because somehow a majority would form.

Another good aspect of our democracy was a “committee” system. Anyone who cared/knew enough about some part of our functioning could be on the committee that would research the issue and bring choices to the group. The committee would have a carte blanche on matters too trivial to meet about, but a threshold of “importance” was determined where if crossed, the band had to be consulted for a vote. For example the “sound equipment committee” could buy something it felt the band needed, without a band OK if it was a $100 item, but not if it was a $400 item.

We also tried to hold off presenting a case for anything significant if one or more members weren’t present. That way all the give and take could happen with everyone contributing and listening, instead of say, four people bringing a “done deal” to someone before he could have input.