Maxime LE TEXIERAirbus Leadership University

Collective decision making : consent ('sociocratic") decision making

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40 - 801 - 15 High

This sequence, also called objection-based decision-making, describes the consent decision-making process as the sociocracy movement promotes it

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Goal

Team gets out with a mindful decision where anyone had a chance to successively:

- Ask for clarifications on the proposal about which the decision is to be made

- Express her/his feelings and emotions related to it, and propose amendments

- Express objections, telling to the group that going forward would represent a high risk for the group integrity or purpose

Attachments

Materials

    Instructions

    Process is documented below but is as well summarized in the nice attached process sheet (copyleft from "Université du Nous"). Duration is approximative according to the ambition/complexity of the discussion and the size of the team as several rounds are to be perfomed. 40 min is the minimum for a team of around 10 persons.

    People sit in a circle and will speak regularly in rounds. This is very important to set a circle to figure the equivalence in decision within the group and that there is a collective ownership of the decision.

    In a more general manner, a prerequisite for this process to work is that people within the circle are a community, which means they share the same vision/meaning and values, benefit from a safe and trusful environment which will make people comfortable in expressing their feelings, emotions and needs, and also object in front of the group. Object? -> this process relies on the understanding of the concept of consent (nobody objects to the decision) vs consensus (everybody agrees). It is about range of tolerance vs personal preference. Hence the recommandation to either try this process first on "easy" decisions, or benefit from preliminary awareness on those concepts. 

    It is also recommended that this process is not facilitated by a member of the team but by an external person (at the beginning at least) as it is frustrating, speech being tightly controlled, interactions being deep but limited to ensure decision is made. 

    Last, the proposal-owner, called also the mover, is key and should benefit from a high level of trust by the team (see step 3).



    Step 0:  prepare the proposal presented to the team for decision. It is named "0" as this task is usually made upfront through project group, brainstorming sub-group or individual to which delegation has been provided. This group or individual can then come up with a mature proposal. The more mature the proposal is, the best the process will work.

    It is important to note that the proposal is brought in front of the team by a proposal owner. The proposal-owner is part of the team, but the proposal should not be considered by the team as being the individual's one. The proposal-owner must be considered as someone brave enough to carry the team's proposal. S.He cannot be the facilitator of the discussion.


    Step 1: The facilitator organizes a first discussion in a turn mode (it is not a round of discussion, each person who wants to speak indicates it to the facilitator who distributes the speach). The proposal-owner answers the clarification when they are requested. Clarifications are brought on the spot at each request. Then speach goes to the next one. This is not a debate between team members so questions are only raised to the proposal owner.

    Beware: a request for clarification is NOT an opinion or feeling about the proposal (see step 2). It is only meant to make sure that the person asking for clarification understood correctly the content of the proposal.


    Step 2: The facilitator then organizes the first round of speech. The facilitator asks each team member in turn his or her feedback on the proposal. This means the circle members are asked to provide their feelings about the proposal. Each participant can then propose an amendment to the proposal. 

    People can skip their turn if they are not ready to speak, but the facilitator will come back to them anyway at the end. Indeed, there is no obligation as such to say anything, but speach is strongly encouraged as the next rounds are more restrictive in terms of speech space and freedom.


    Step 3: The proposal-owner, having heard each person's feelings, comments and proposals, decides then on his or her own to:

    - clarify further the proposal if needed

    - then either amend, withdraw or maintain the proposal as it is.

    This is a key step as the group trusts the proposal-owner to make the best of all expressed feelings and amendment proposals.

    Note: if the proposal is withdrawn, it means the proposal-owner does not consider it as mature enough and will need to go back to step 0 to work it further, maybe through a collective brainstorming session. The process is then stopped.


    Step 4: The facilitator then organizes the second round of speech. The facilitator first clarifies what is an objection. The group must understand that it is not anymore about expressing feelings or opinions, but it's now about answering the question: "Can I live with this ?" at least for a while. If one participant objects, it means that the decision endangers the organization/project  (not complying with the vision or values of the team for example) and/or endangers his/her sense of belonging to the community, so that he/she will disengage from the team. We can formulate it as well as being a proposal out of the range of tolerance from the person.

    Each objection is listed on a flipchart by the facilitator. They are NOT discussed. The speech goes round in turn, so there is no possibility to interact with the objectors. The facilitator and proposal-owner just welcome the objection and share it with the group. People can skip their turn when it's their turn to express, and the facilitator comes back to them at the end.

    Expressing consent is as important as expressing objection. Each circle participant shall express it consent in a clear and unambigous way (visually for example or saying "I consent" / "I have o objection") to imply her or him in the decision, to increase adherence to the decision. Hence the importance of expression in round.


    Step 5:  The facilitator explains that objections are now group ones. They are not "against" anyone and for the sake of involving all in the decision, the team should not focus on who expressed them. These objections can be seen as opportunities to make the proposal better and the group stronger. A discussion is then organized in the same way as the clarification step: people speak in turn (but not in round) making proposals to lift the objection.

    The objections are managed one by one and the proposal is amended by the proposal-owner. 

    This step requires strong control from the facilitator not to open a debate, and also to orientate the proposal-owner to make a new proposal to the group which will go through step 4 again; the group must accept that there will no feedback loop again as we have entered the range of tolerance zone of each of us and not anymore the personal preference one.


    Step 6. Celebrate ! Team has gone through feelings, emotions and frustration but has achieved a inclusive, collective decision. The proposal-owner has been brave and the team has been trustful. This is a great collective intelligence achievement that deserves adequate celebration!

    Background

    Consent Decision Making is a cornerstone of sociocracy. Thx to the "Université du Nous" for the nice and copyleft attachment. Gilles Charest has been as well an inspiration for this method.

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