Decision-Making

A good decision takes into account the boundaries of all people who will have to live with the consequences of the decision.

The process of decision-making in a group project needs to be clear, transparent and legitimated by all people who form the group. A difficulty that often arises in groups is making too many decisions. Not everything needs to be regulated or decided upon. It is always good to ask: “Do we really need to have a common position on this or can we accept that it remains everyone's personal decision?”

It is possible to choose different systems of decision making for different types of decisions – depending on the number of people involved. Decisions are usually classified according to their range of consequences and necessity in the group project.

Three different types of decisions can be distinguished:

Strategic decisions: Identification of the overall goals of the project and the means of reaching them. Over time this affects everybody in the project. Such decisions should be taken by the whole group, or everyone should at least have somehow participated in the process.

Organisational decisions: The way to organise different aspects and parts of the group or project with the goal of being more effective. These decisions should be taken by the group of people concerned.

Operative decisions: To work and manage daily activities the best solution is usually forming small, stable groups or individuals which take care of everyday tasks.

Some concrete conditions can facilitate the process of good decision making:

  • People have sufficient knowledge of the topic to be discussed and enough time to think it over.
  • Good facilitation of decision-making gives everyone involved equivalent space to participate.
  • Decisions have to be written down and ratified according to the agreement on how decisions are made.
  • Decisions must be communicated and accessible to the entire group.

The most common way of taking collective decisions are directly related to the governance structure:

  • Participatory and direct democracy: decisions with majorities, be it a simple majority of 50%, or a qualified majority, for example 70%.
  • Consensus decision-making: Decisions pass if no one blocks.
  • Consent decision-making (Sociocracy): Decisions pass if there is no paramount reasoned objection - this is called consent. “ Good enough   for now, safe enough to try”;  This  phrase expresses the spirit of the sociocracy in terms of decision-making.
  • Collective intelligence emerges when individuals and workgroup are invited to suggest concrete shared proposals for decisions. Proposals are the basis of decision making, therefore the process of developing them together is central in participatory decision-making.

Establishing a culture of decision-making where objections to a proposal are seen as gifts to the group, this leads to real community spirit. Objections help to improve the proposal and the capacity to integrate different opinions nourishes the community.

The quality of a proposal depends on certain criteria. It needs to be within the range in which the group has the right to make decisions. It must address a problem or  situation that is actually in the hands of the group. It needs to refer to the problem or the situation with clarity. The problem is seen as a tension, and this tension is the expression of the distance between the current situation and what the group aspires for. The decision should address reasons for problems, not symptoms. Reasons must be described clearly, along with the needs that are not met in the present situation. Reasoned arguments back the proposal, explaining how it addresses the problem. The proposal is not rigid, it is open. It is not a claim. It can be accompanied by other possible options, can be improved and transformed through the process. If possible, the proposal should include an action plan and an agenda. This action plan should have milestones, be realistic, doable, measurable and verifiable whether it really meets the needs.

Care of agreements: One of possible difficulties is not keeping or fulfilling the decisions and/or agreements. It is advisable to establish a system of monitoring how and whether decisions are followed.