title: Collective Decision-Making

Tension between autocratic, fast decisions and common slow ones

how to be effective and inclusive in decision making? can we be fast and fair?

Decision-making frameworks

1. Consensus

  • Hear from everyone

  • Use concerns and objections to improve decision

  • Decision made when everyone is satisfied this was the best decision

  • Pros

    • Strong buy in
    • Simple to implement
  • Cons

    • Slow
    • Anyone can block (disproportionate power to each person)
    • More difficult with larger groups

Article: https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/consensus#what

  • Priority to move quickly and safely
    • Good enough for now and safe enough to try
  • Any one person can block proposals with a principled objection
    • Valid objection = “this could do harm”
  • The question is not “do you love it?” but “can you live with it?”
  • Process
    • Proposal
    • Clarifying questions and reactions
    • Iterate proposal based on objections
    • Decision made when no principled objections (avoid doing harm)

Article: https://medium.com/percolab-droplets/generative-decision-making-process-cf0b131c5ac4

Distinguish preference from tolerance

3. Advice

  • Anyone can take a decision
    • If they take responsibility for the outcome
    • First they seek and listen to advice from
      • Experts
      • People affected
  • Encourages autonomy and collective intelligence


  1. Announce that you are seeking advice
  2. Consult with people who will be affected, and people with relevant expertise
  3. Make your decision
  4. Announce the outcome: ensuring people know they were heard and understood, even if they disagree with your decision



  • Assign limited authority to take decisions (to individuals or small groups) on a specific set of issues (e.g. marketing) and with a defined process

  • Creates clarity about responsibilities

  • Transparency is an important component

    • Announce the outcome: ensuring people know they were heard and understood, even if they disagree with your decision
  • Best for “expertise” types of decisions

Creating a Decision Protocol

Factors to consider

  • Risk (the more, the more people should be involved)
  • Reversability (the more, the less people should be involved)
  • Urgency
  • Predictability (of outcome)

Starting with experiments

  • Time-limited trials
  • Test different methods for different types of decisions

Team exercise to make your decision protocol

Getting unstuck

Decisions inevitably get stuck sometimes

  • Break the binary framework (yes/no)
    • Tends to create polarization
    • Look for more views
      • Switching to
        • I love it
        • I can tolerate it
        • I object it
  • Visualize decision-making positions
    • Draw whiteboard
    • Move people around the room
  • Seek the principle behind each position
    • Score each proposal against a list of principles
    • May be easier to agree on guiding principles
  • Pause and focus on relationships
    • When someone objects a proposal, may be useful to have someone stand next to them for emotional support (in tense situations)
  • Run a time-limited trial (when possible)

Process Using Loomio

  • Poll for timing
  • Set up agenda points
  • Count who’s ready (people are prepared to meet)

Case Studies

Gini How we make decentralised decisions
Enspiral Decision-making agreement

Extra Resources

Created on: 2021-02-18 Inspired by: Richard Bartlett Link: https://www.thehum.org/post/decision-making-methods-for-decentralised-teams Related: Decentralized Organizations | Decision-Making