Product development guiding principle: Consent over consensus
Guiding principle in effective product development culture.
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.
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.
Consensus is essentially a universal veto which can systemically bog down progress by placing all the burden on anyone who proposes change. This is known as the consensus trap.
Instead, consider consent over consensus.
Better collective decision-making processes are generally based on consent, not consensus.
“Consensus” means everyone is for the decision, “consent” only means that no one is actively against the decision. This is also known as “acceptance” over “agreement”. Reaching consent is much easier than consensus while still enabling buy-in and multiple perspectives.
Consent over consensus shifts the burden to objectors. If the proposal is safe enough to try with no reasoned, substantial objections, then our default position is to proceed.
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.
Otherwise, we’re just back to unilateral decisions hidden behind phony consent.