How to make progress with difficult decisions

How to make progress with difficult decisions

Making progress on difficult decisions – A view between consent vs consensus

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Quote: “Nothing is what happens when everyone has to agree” – Seth Godin

I have been working with an executive team that has found themselves in circular discussions around important decisions. It has resulted in frustration with many decision-deadlocks falling on the already-too-busy CEO to make the final call.  

We have been exploring the concept of Consent vs Consensus decision-making, alongside ensuring clear accountabilities, to untangle why decisions become circular.

Consent vs Consensus:

Consensus decision-making is when you seek agreement before finalising a decision. 

The downside with consensus decision-making is that often decision finalisation can become circular – with any suggestion of disagreement causing the need for repeated conversation. Circular conversations are frustrating – for both those who agree and disagree.

Consent decision-making does not require agreement to finalise a decision. Consent decision-making is when you process whether there are any significant objections before finalising a decision. 

The Consent Decision-Making process:

A consent decision-making approach minimises frustration by following these steps to reach a decision: 

  1.  Be clear on who is the accountable decision-maker.
  2. The accountable decision-maker listens to everyone’s collective wisdom and knowledge and shares their final decision.
  3. Ask the following question: “Will this decision outcome cause harm?” 
  4. If the answer is yes, then we collaborate around what the objector is seeing or sensing.
  5. The accountable decision-maker makes the final decision once all of the objections have been heard and processed.

Consent Decision Making Process

What’s essential to support consent-based decision making:

  1. Clear accountabilities on who is responsible for the decision outcome
  2. Acknowledgement and the ability to adapt and course-correct if the decision was wrong

Note: Consent based decision-making still requires collaboration and curiosity – to understand the enterprise system view to make an informed, accountable decision.

Bonus – Disagree & Commit:

One tool that the Amazon leadership team uses when they find themselves in disagreement with the final decision is to say, “I disagree and commit.” 

Disagreeing and committing creates a foundation of team trust – that you do have team commitment even though you do not have perfect agreement.

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