One of the ways the methods used in sociocracy that speeds up decision-making is going directly to objections instead of or before discussing the advantages of a proposal. The perceived advantages of a decision should be stated in the proposal or its presentation. The presenters will probably recount the issues and options they considered. There is usually no need to repeat the discussion that has taken place in previous meetings or to hear arguments in favor again.
The Process for Making a Decision Effectively
Prequel: Discuss or request comments from everyone who will be affected by the decision. A formal discussion in a meeting of the circle may be preferable, but is not necessary if there are other ways to collect information and multiple viewpoints.
1. Present the proposal.
2. Answer clarifying questions.
Questions should be clean questions with no embedded messages. If there is an embedded message, don’t discuss it. Answer as if it had been a clean question or defer it for rounds.
4. Do a quick reaction round.
Responses of 1-2 words will indicate if there are concerns or objections that seem serious or unresolvable. Is the proposal ready for consent or should it be referred back to the proposal writers?
5. Ask for concerns and objections in detail.
(a) Refer these back to proposal writer(s) or
(b) Begin consent rounds to resolve them.
Asking for detailed concerns and objections should usually be done in a round but if there are only a few this can done more effectively by asking each person individually.
6. Consent rounds.
Several rounds may be needed to reach consent. The early rounds will suggest resolutions and later rounds to clarify remaining objections.
The decisive question is: “Do you have objections that will influence your ability to support this decision?”
Addressing concerns and resolving objections is a group process, not the duty of the facilitator. The facilitator decides how to proceed but this decision is subject to objections.
The facilitator participates as an equal, including in rounds.
The goal is consent to a decision that everyone can support in day-to-day operations.
Effectiveness, transparency, and accountability are the prime values in this process:
- What will produce the most effective decision?
- Does everyone have all the information relevant to this decision
- Who will be accountable for the outcome of the decision
Rounds may be interspersed with discussion:
- Rounds establish and maintain equivalence in the room. They keep decision-making balanced by encouraging everyone to participate as equals—the reticent as well as the more expansive.
- Discussion, free form or dialogue between 2 or more persons, can be helpful to clarify questions or to give information others in the group may not have.
A proposal needs:
- a person(s) to implement the decision and
- a method to measure outcomes.
If there is no plan for implementing the decision or means of measuring effectiveness, the decision will probably be meaningless. Not worth the time.
Moving Objections to the Beginning
Moving objections to the beginning of consideration of a proposal instead of considering them at the end of the process moves time and attention to the issues that may not have been considered or that are in opposition to the proposal.
The arguments are then more likely to be presented and examined clearly, not in the context of a back and forth of pros and cons by skilled and unskilled orators. This kind of rhetoric can easily obscure the aim of the proposal and the nature of the objection.
The endpoint of decision-making is an action that works. Consensus decisions, those in which all the objections have been resolved and/or measurements set to test them, work best. They are not always possible but they work best.