Guiding principle: consent over consensus

Unilateral decisions lead to false progress.

When decisions are made unilaterally, it tends to lead to false progress. You’re unlikely to have buy-in and you miss out on any perspective that the broader group might have had.

“We don’t have time! I’ll make the decision myself!” leading to “Why can’t we execute?!?”
Unilateral decisions tend to lead to false progress

Consensus leads to slow decision-making.

When decisions are made by consensus, decisions can take a long time, and may never resolve. The more people that are involved in a consensus decision, the worse this will get.

“Oh yes, we embrace change here! You just need to convince all of us to 100% agree on each idea.”
Consensus is essentially a universal veto

Instead, consider consent over consensus.

Better collective decision-making processes are generally based on consent, not consensus.

If there is a reasoned, substantial objection, it must be considered.

It is important in a consent-based decision-making process that any reasoned, substantial objections are actually considered and not just ignored.

Not everyone needs to provide consent for every decision.

If a person is not really contributing any knowledge, nor is impacted by the result of a decision, it doesn’t make sense that their consent is required before the decision is made.

When even consent is bogged down, predetermine a tiebreaker

It is possible even when only consent is required that a decision is still bogged down, especially if there are time constraints for when a decision must be made. In these situations, it is useful to have predetermined a tiebreaker (or tiebreaking mechanism) to progress despite the inability to actually get full consent.

Example practices that express this principle

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Jason Yip

Jason Yip

Staff Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl