• Richard Bartlett

4 Decision-Making Methods for Decentralised Teams


decision making in a team

In our view, there's no "one size fits all" decision-making method. We've noticed that the most mature decentralised organisations use multiple methods, and they know how to switch from one method to the other, depending on the decision. In this article I'm going to share our definition of four different methods: consensus, consent, advice & mandate.


Consensus

You’re looking for what is best for the group, which may mean putting personal preferences aside. Include as many stakeholders as possible and give everyone an equal voice in the process. Aim to understand concerns and objections so you can modify and improve the proposal. You may not reach unanimous agreement, but everyone should be satisfied this is the best decision we could reach.


How to do it

In general, the objective of a consensus process is to open up a wide ranging conversation to explore the possibilities, and then eventually converge on the

proposal that best fits the group.

  1. Introduce and clarify the issue or opportunity

  2. Explore possible ideas and solutions

  3. Look for an emerging proposal

  4. Discuss, clarify & amend the proposal

Then test for agreement:

  • Agree: I support this proposal

  • Abstain/Stand Aside: I will neither support nor object to this proposal

  • Disagree/Reservation: I think the proposal could be improved, but I do not object to the group moving ahead without my support

  • Block/Veto: I have a principled objection to the proposal and cannot let it proceed

You may need to define some specific details, like:

  • Decision threshold: how many group members need to participate for a proposal to pass? How many “Abstain”s or “Disagree”s can a proposal have and still pass? Who has the power to Block?

  • Timeframe: how much time can you allow for people to participate?

  • Facilitator: who is responsible for the process?

We can recommend this excellent guide from the Seeds For Change website for more guidance on Consensus.


Consent

Consent is a participatory process like consensus, but instead of seeking the best decision for the group, consent is the absence of objections. You’re looking for a proposal that is “good enough for now & safe enough to try”. Everyone has the right to make a “principled objection”. A valid objection is like “I think there is a serious risk this proposal could do harm”, not “I have a better idea” or “I don’t like it”.