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Eliminate Consensus Decisions

Ravi Resck 30 de July de 2021

It seems like a good idea: to involve your entire team in most of the day-to-day decisions. The price of the product is not suited to the new market situation. Let's call everyone and decide together, okay? Hmm. This can be costly for your organization. Understand how it is possible to balance participation and speed in decision making.


A decision by consensus implies that everyone in the group believes that a particular choice is the best possible for that moment. If a person disagrees or just thinks there is a better alternative, you will not have consensus. This mechanism can be effective, as it produces decisions that everyone agrees with, but it is not at all efficient, as you will need hours of conversation, a facilitator and a lot of energy to sustain the process.

There is another consensus problem that is rarely portrayed in books on the subject. If you don't have a facilitator available all the time, inevitably the people who can best articulate your arguments, those who are more outgoing and those who have some kind of institutional power (a manager, for example) will have greater influence on decisions. This is certainly not an interesting result if you want equivalence.

Do you mean that I should not involve my team in decisions?

If involve the team it means listening to them, the answer is yes. But listening to what they think is different from trying to integrate all perspectives into all types of decisions and reach consensus. This you should avoid, as it will take a long time and will be extremely exhausting.

But I want them to participate in the decisions. How do I do?

Decision Types

First of all, let's segment the term “decision”.

Organizations that practice dynamic governance (Sociocracy, Holacracia and S3) separate work into two types: governance and operations. I'm going to add a third category, which I'm going to name assignments. This separation is important to determine the level of participation desirable in each type.

Governance corresponds to the organizational structure: roles, responsibilities and policies (agreements) established by groups / teams. A governance decision implies changing these elements. For example, defining a role called Pricing, responsible for set product prices it is a governance decision.

Operations corresponds to all other decisions that are not governance or that are the responsibility of some role. For example, decide what the price of a particular product is is an operational decision, as it is already the responsibility of the role Pricing, assuming it is defined.

Assignments correspond to the choice of suitable people for the roles defined in governance. This type of decision usually resides with the manager, leader, coordinator, etc. Who will play the role Pricing? This is an attribution decision.

Now that we have separated governance and operations decisions, we can identify what kind of participation is desirable in each case.

Involving the team

For governance decisions, it is interesting not only to listen to your team, but to consider possible concerns and integrate them. After all, the governance structure (roles, responsibilities and agreements) considerably affects all members of your group / team. Later on it will be explained how this can be done.

For allocation decisions, there are two possible paths. One is to structure a collective process for assessing the performance of roles. So anyone can propose a new (re) assignment and / or assess the performance of another. Another way is for you (manager, coordinator, etc.) to decide on your own, just listening to your team, but not necessarily integrating all perspectives.

For operational decisions, you (and everyone else) must make them autocratically. That's right. You can listen to colleagues' advice and opinions, but don't try to integrate them. As well? ????

Maximum agility: autocratic operational decisions

Most day-to-day decisions (which are operational) are easily reversible in the event of major disasters. In this condition, deciding individually is the most productive strategy (efficient and effective). Imagine if you had to consider everyone's opinion each time you change a sentence on your company's website! It would be extremely exhausting and time consuming.

In addition, individual decisions give autonomy and freedom to the person who is playing the role. It has space to try, make mistakes and learn.


Equivalence and participation: governance decisions by consent

I mentioned that for governance decisions it is interesting to hear and integrate the possible concerns of your team. Still, I don't think consensus is an adequate mechanism. I believe that consent is more suitable.

To make a decision by consent, it is necessary for someone to bring a proposal to resolve a tension (problem, opportunity). For this proposal to be approved, all participants in the group / team must consent with her.

Consent does not mean thinking that it is the best solution. Consent means that you have no objection to the proposal. The definition of objection varies depending on the social technology you use. To the Holacracia, the objection is some irreversible harm that the proposal will cause the group and move us back. Strong, isn't it? Well, few things are objections indeed.

Using a process based on proposals and by consent for governance decisions, you promote protagonism in your team. The person who brings a proposal, will have all the conditions to approve it. In case of objection, it must be integrated into the proposal so that it still resolves the original problem, but does not generate the objection. At Holacracia, this step by step is called the integrative decision-making process.

Remember that consent is for governance decisions. Only roles, responsibilities and agreements.

The decision-making format described above corresponds to that practiced in most social technologies evolutionary, such as Holacracia and Sociocracy 3.0.

Using this dynamic, you will be able to eliminate all operational decision-making meetings in your group / team / organization. With the exception of governance, all decisions can be made in an autocratic and individual way.

The effort to describe its governance structure (roles, responsibilities and agreements) generates rapid gains in efficiency and autonomy. With clear roles, people can focus on work and make good decisions.

Article originally written by Davi Gabriel da Silva and published ON HERE