A  common problem here in Sweden when groups of people head out to take a decision is that we must be completely aligned to be able to move forward. We simply believe that the first step in taking a decision is to create a common understanding of the issue. We get into endless discussions where we try to align my mental model of the issue with your mental model of the issue. If there are large egos involved this can seem almost comical to an outside observer.

Then we must do the same for the solution, and perhaps after that we can take the decision to move forward. More often than not the time has run out and we aren’t that much wiser. This often results in no decision at all, a rushed decision of low quality, or one person getting tired of it all and taking the decision based on formal mandate.

But guess what, most of the time we don’t need to agree!

The only thing we need to agree on is that anyone can and will object if any other person’s or group’s intended actions seem to go against the purpose of the organisation.

A question you can ask yourself can be: Is this person’s intended actions going to wreck what we are trying to do?

The basic assumption here is that small failures equals risk-free learning and that no individual has the right answer, but that our collective intelligence may produce one.

A process for a meeting in such a manner can look like this:

  1. We gather in the room and orient ourselves with the facts.
  2. Based on these facts every person considers in silence what he or she wants to do to move forward.
  3. Then everybody publicly state what action they intend to take. This can include getting more facts. Doing nothing is a valid action.
  4. When this is done everyone considers if what any other person said would jeopardize the purpose of the organization. If there are no objections then everybody goes ahead with their intentions. If there are objections we go back to 1. and try to hammer out the facts of the objection.

This process is describing the Sociocratic principle of Consent. If you want to learn more about how to create a democratic yet highly effective workplace I recommend looking into Sociocracy. I believe it shows much promise in building 21st century organizations.

Emil Vikström

Copyright © 2014 Emil Vikström. All Rights Reserved.

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