Do try this at work: the advice process
The advice process is a popular method of distributed decision-making
What is the advice process?
“Anyone can make any decision, so long as they are willing to take responsibility for the outcome, and they have first listened to input from anyone who will be affected, or who has relevant expertise.
Notice it says listened to, not agreed with. If your relationships are good, this gives you most of the benefits of consensus, at a fraction of the cost.
This decision-making approach is greatly aided by having some agreed process for dealing with tensions, e.g. regular Retrospective meetings, or Conflict Resolution Process”, Richard Bartlett, The Hum.
How do we do it?
The following four steps and the pointers below them outline how decisions are taken using the advice process.
- Take initiative — having noticed an issue or opportunity you have the responsibility to take the initiative. If you feel you are not best placed to make a decision then seek help from someone else in the organisation
- Gather input — prior to proposing a decision you may choose to seek input in order to gather perspectives on the issue or opportunity.
- Seek advice on your proposed decision — you need to seek advice from i) those with expertise on the subject matter, and ii) those who will be meaningfully affected by your decision. (If you are unsure who they are then ask around and chat to your colleagues).
- Make a decision & tell people — having taken all advice into account, which we are obliged to do, you make your decision and inform those who have given advice.
Things to remember when using the advice process to make a decision:
- Aim to make quick decisions.
- Aim for workable solutions rather than perfection.
- Aim to create a culture of continuous improvement.
- When communicating about the decision, be clear about which stage in the process you are discussing (2, 3 or 4).
- No colleague, regardless of their role, can tell you what to decide.
- Anyone can make any decision, provided they follow the advice process.
- Decisions can be reviewed at any time.
- If a decision does not impact on other staff, you needn’t seek advice.
- If a decision affects all staff, you must seek advice from all staff.
- Use technology to speed things up.
- Set a deadline that advice is required by.
- If comments signal agreement, a decision can be made very quickly.
- If new perspectives emerge, you might choose to: i) amend your proposed decision; ii) establish a work group to refine it; iii) not pursue the idea; iv) convinced you are closest to the information required to make the decision you may decide to make (or trial) the decision and to be responsible for the consequences.
- Not to blame colleagues if things don’t go as expected; help them to put things right.
- If you notice a decision has been made without experts or those affected being consulted then this is an issue that you need to discuss with the decision maker.
- You won’t use decision-making tool perfectly first time — keep practicing, the results will be worth it.
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Mark Eddleston — helping leaders, organisations & teams to adopt better, more participatory and progressive ways of working http://marco.work