We have always wanted people from across the team to contribute to decisions

Impact measured against UN Sustainable Development Goals

05 gender equality S 08 decent work and economic growth S 10 reduced inequalities S 17 partnership for the goals S
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This is important from an ethical standpoint - if someone is in a team they have a right to help determine its direction. It also ensures you make better decisions by using a diverse range of perspectives.

When William Joseph was a smaller group, we could rely on psychological safety to enable this. But with a wider variety of roles, experiences and personalities we need a more robust process to make sure this happens effectively.

As such, we have been testing the ‘consent based decision making’ process from Sociocracy to allow us to do this.

It is a process that leaders can put in place to enable a wide range of views to contribute to a decision. The aim is to focus on consent rather than agreement. The underlying process relies on asking if anyone has a critical concern about moving forward, rather than aiming for everyone to agree.

We are using this to explore the overlap of tolerances in our team, rather than working to full agreement. The process makes it much easier to move forward, whilst involving everyone.

It still relies on having trust between people to enable them to share their full thoughts - but works to reduce the bar at which people feel safe to do so.

This isn’t about people ‘giving away’ power. It’s a scalable process that should increase everyone’s ability to influence decisions that affect them.

James Gadsby Peet, Director of Digital & Strategy

You can read much more about this technique here: https://www.sociocracyforall.org/consent-decision-making/

This visualisation illustrates that the area of overlap between “no objection” is considerably bigger than the overlap between personal preferences. Source: https://www.sociocracyforall.org/consent-decision-making/


We have decided to test consent based decision making in a small part of our team - rather than trying to change how a significant proportion of our group works all at the same time. This approach should allow us to identify pitfalls and opportunities if we do decide to roll out this technique further.

This approach was suggested by the team at Outlandish - who having implemented sociocracy themselves, help other organisations do so.

Our test is using a variety of metrics to decide whether it has been successful. Including:

  1. Are people more empowered?

  2. Has making decisions become easier?

  3. Are the the outcomes of the decisions better (including people outside of the decision making process as well as the benefit or disadvantage of the actual decision)

What’s next

Assuming the success criteria are met, we will work out how to roll out this way of making decisions to the wider team. Of particular interest will be how more delivery focussed groups use the technique for making decisions - which are usually tightly time pressured.

Once this kind of challenge has been overcome, we will then work out how to restructure the team’s set up to make best use of this process. In other organisations different ‘circles’ are set up which give people specific empowerment around particular areas.