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?