How to de-centralise decision-making in 5 steps

Courtney Dutton, 3 min read

For remote work to work, employees need to be trusted and authorised to make their own decisions. Why? Because slacking, emailing, or calling to seek permission for every decision will grind your productivity to a halt.

To combat the time-void that decisions made by consensus inevitably cause, at Yarno we’ve implemented a decision-process. We implemented this prior to working fully remotely due to coronavirus, but we’ve noticed it’s extra-beneficial now, as it allows decisions to be made asynchronously. Asynchronous communication and operations are essential when working remotely, because we don’t have the benefit of ducking over our desk to run something by a coworker.

Below we’ve outlined the quick-start guide to making more effective decisions based on consent, rather than consensus.

Decision-making by consent, not consensus

Our decision process is based on the idea presented in Frederic Laloux's Reinventing Organisations that the best decisions are made, not necessarily when there is unanimous agreement with the decision, but when a team trusts in a decision-maker to make the best decision they can, based on their skills and experience.

Our 5-step decision-making process

We've implemented our refined decision-making process at Yarno for about a year, and so far it seems to be working pretty well. The process is as follows:

  1. A member of the team identifies a decision they believe needs to be made.

That team-member can be anyone. As we're moving towards self-managed teams, rather than a hierarchical structure, every member of the Yarno team has the skills and context to make decisions about business factors which affect them.

2. That team-member creates a decision template

The decision template outlines the decision at hand, and requires the decision-maker to complete research about the topic, and propose a solution, with reasoning, to the problem at hand.

3. Anyone with knowledge or expertise in the relevant area, or who will be affected by the decision is invited to weigh in.

This step is logical: if you have important information or knowledge about the decision to be made, or you're going to be affected by the decision, you're given a platform to voice your ideas and concerns regarding the issue.

The decision-template mentioned above includes a section for team-members to give their thoughts on the proposed solution, and to state whether they are for or against the proposed solution.

4. If needed - a meeting is set up to discuss proposed solutions

This one is optional, and only done where required. For big decisions, it can be necessary to have a proper person-to-person discussion about the topic, so that everyone affected has the full context for the decision.

5. The person who proposed the decision, makes the final decision

While the decision-maker has to consider the opinions of other team-members, they don't have to reach a decision that pleases everyone. The decision-making process rests on trust: trust that whoever has made the decision has done the necessary work to make the best decision they can.

Wrap up

We appreciate that it might be easier for Yarno to implement this process, because we’re a small, tight-knit team with a habit of over-communicating. However, the risk of consensus decision making is present no matter team size or role.  And the principles behind it in sharing context and encouraging disagreement can be applied by anyone.

If you're interested in implementing a similar decision-making style at your organisation, we've documented the process of getting up and running in the following blog posts:

“How decision-making inequality sets flexible work up to fail”

“How I let go and enabled others in my team to make their own decisions”

Courtney Dutton

Courtney Dutton

Courtney is a fact-finding expert, Instagram connoisseur and the only person we know who can write 1500 words and fix a fence in the same half hour.

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