While exploring governance in business over the past couple of years I encountered both Sociocracy and Holacracy. Both of these approaches to governance have been associated with self-directed groups, and both have wrongly been identified as forms of anarchy. I’ve read about these approaches, attended introductory workshops, and participated in discussion groups – but I don’t claim expertise (I’m not a trained facilitator in either Sociocracy or Holacracy). I have applied some of what I’ve learned in daily practice, particularly consent decision-making which I feel can lead to better and faster decisions.
What is Consent Decision-Making and Why Use It?
The basic idea behind consent decisions (aka formal consensus) is that the consent process splits the difference between autocratic decisions that are quickly mandated, and endless debate as can be encountered in group consensus decision-making:
I have a reference manual on my bookshelf entitled, Successful Marketing Planning. Produced by a former employer as a compendium of marketing “best practices”, it is well made with thick paper and color-coded tabs, and oozes confidence. But here’s the thing. The manual makes no reference to any actual successful marketing project that resulted from following the practices, I don’t recall any examples of successes that were presented with training that accompanied the manual, and I knew of no other manager who had claimed success thanks to the best practices as stated in the manual.
In fairness, there may have been well-documented successes attributable to the practices that were never revealed for some reason or by oversight, and the failures of which I was aware could have been due to poor execution of the practices. Who’s to say if the practices in my manual, or any best practices, actually “work” or not?
When the Medical Device Excise Tax was announced it generated much-heated debate (http://1.usa.gov/1l0GFeJ). That heat seems to have dissipated over the past months as other issues have floated to the top of the news heap.
Many didn’t seem to understand the furor over a relatively small 2.3% tax on medical devices. The tax, however, is taken right off the top-line sales rather than net profit, and this calculation has the potential of a large impact on the operations of medical device firms (http://bit.ly/1q4n13w).
A lot of speculation was offered as to why the tax would be either a good thing for healthcare or the death knell for the medical device industry. I, too, provided my opinion on what I felt were 5 likely outcomes regarding the future of the tax from repeal, through modification to inaction. But the fact is that no one knew outcomes for certain because the actual effect of the law hadn’t yet played out. Everyone was guessing which still seems to be the case.
After all the debate over the past year-and-a-half, hard evidence is apparently still in short supply, and polarization and entrenchment on positions have filled in the void. Lacking objective evidence regarding the actual impact of the tax, how can anyone be expected to make reasonable decisions about the tax? Yet it seems that practically no one, including our legislators, has demanded that objective evidence is produced for deliberation.