Decision-making and collaboration are two essential aspects of any successful team or organization. When working together, individuals must be able to make informed choices, communicate effectively, and work together towards a common goal. Effective decision-making involves a process of gathering information, analyzing options, and ultimately selecting a course of action. Advice-based and consensus-based decision-making are the standard practices for all projects at Libre Space Foundation, excluding the LSF Board project, in which the decision-making model is not defined yet. As an organization that operates under self-management principles, the consensus-based decision-making process shall only be employed in cases where the advice-based decision-making cannot be followed.
Before initiating any decision-making process, the following prerequisites need to be established:
One of the key aspects of effective decision-making is communication. Teams must be able to communicate openly and honestly, sharing ideas and feedback in a constructive manner. This requires active listening skills, empathy, and a willingness to compromise and work towards solutions that work for everyone involved.
Another important aspect is trust. Team members must feel comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas without fear of judgement or criticism. Building trust requires transparency, empathy, and a commitment to the larger goal.
Lastly, decision-making requires a willingness to take risks and adapt to changing circumstances. Teams must be open to new ideas and willing to pivot or change course if necessary to achieve their objectives.
Advice-based decisions are self-directed decisions that are made by individuals based on the guidance, input, or recommendations of others. It is a lightweight and fast process originating from do-ocratic and self-management principles with increased decision-making performance and efficiency. Nevertheless, this decision-making process is not suitable in cases where:
Self-confidence to take own-decision is low.
Decision is considered high risk.
Impact to the organization or project in case of failure is considered high.
There are known potential objections by other team members.
The key rules for advice-based decision-making are:
Advice shall be sought from experts.
Advice shall be sought from the people that will be most directly impacted by the decision.
Consensus-based decision-making is a collaborative decision-making process that seeks to reach agreement among all team members. In this approach, all members of the group participate in the decision-making process and work together to find a solution that everyone can support.
The key rules for consensus decision-making are:
All information and knowledge to make a decision shall be freely available. The exchange of information shall not be hindered in any way.
Members shall actively listen to and consider all viewpoints and perspectives.
Agreed ideas and decisions shall belong to the team as a whole and not to individual members, even if the decisions were made using passive acceptance or tolerance by these members.
In principle, disagreements can always be resolved with enough discussion.
Consensus may be reached by composing all opinions as long as they do not conflict with each other.
The right to object shall always be respected.
Discussion logs shall be maintained to the extent possible and especially in case where objections have been expressed.
Consensus is reached in any of the following cases:
Unanimity - All members fully agree with the decision.
Acceptance - Some members fully agree with the decision while the rest are neutral or have no opinion on the matter, effectively passively accepting the decision.
Tolerance - Some members agree or accept the decision while the rest have objections but decide to tolerate it. In this case, the objections must be recorded.
Inaction to decide
This occurs when the team cannot reach a consensus decision and can lead to a prolonged and unproductive decision-making process that can demotivate and frustrate team members. Inaction to decide can be caused by a lack of information, resistance to change or fear of failure.
Vulnerability to malicious members
Malicious team members can intentionally disrupt the decision-making process for their gain by continuously blocking decisions or advocating for decisions that serve their self-interest rather than the interest of the team. This can lead to a sense of distrust or resentment within the group. Another tactic that a malicious member can use to steer or block decisions is to dominate or hijack the discussions, leaving no room for other ideas to be expressed. Withholding information is also a common tactic used by malicious team members to manipulate decisions.
Frustration and Demotivation
Consensus decision-making, while democratic and inclusive, can be a time-consuming process. This can sometimes demotivate and frustrate team members.
To achieve consensus, some members may reach a compromise or a composition of ideas that may not represent the ideal outcome for the team or may not solve the problem entirely and thus, conclude to a low-quality decision.
Groupthink is a phenomenon that can arise during consensus decision-making. It occurs when the desire for group harmony or cohesiveness results in a decision that is not well thought-out or objective. The pressure from the team can lead to individuals conforming to group norms or not speaking out, which can result in suboptimal or even dangerous decisions.
In a consensus decision-making process, it is important to ensure that all members feel heard and included in the decision-making process. If an objecting member is isolated or ignored, it can cause issues within the team and undermine the effectiveness of the consensus decision.
Fallback to other decision-making processes
Excessive use of the right to block decisions may lead to major frustration. In an attempt to unblock decisions, team members may be tempted to fallback to majority vote and in practice violate the consensus-based decision-making.