“We love this way of working, we get so many ideas and such great energy from it. The only problem is we still find it hard to make decisions.” That’s a summary of the kind of thing sometimes said to me by people who have successfully introduced this way of being to their teams and organisations. Yet find they still don’t make decisions clearly or well. And I’d say this is not because of anything to do with the Thinking Environment principles, I’d say it’s because this is a group that doesn’t have a clear structure or philosophy for their decision-making. So what would that philosophy look like?
Obviously it isn’t easy: if it was it would already be in place. It requires preparation and discussion. Here are some key suggestions for clarifying the usual sticking points.
Thinking about decisions in advance, we need to know which will require consensus and which will not – and what is the difference. Then prioritise the decision points on the Agenda.
Do we know how we will include the “Disagrees“ and still maintain respect and equality? Surely the ideal is to be able to disagree without rancour and remain willing to continue the discussion. So each person will need to develop a robust willingness to have their perspective challenged and be able to give information, data and history on their topic.
We would agree to consistent attention-giving, a commitment to the facts, and no interruption. With these vital points discussed and clearly in place, we can then hold our meeting as a Thinking Environment and go on to make clear decisions at the end of each Agenda item.
And if feelings are high and there is confusion and urgency, and a decision must still be made, then final authority rests with the Chair making a decision based on all that’s been said and then asking “does anyone here strongly oppose this suggestion, and if so what is your alternative?” (Frankly, this is brilliant!)
This is the briefest summary of what’s been emerging from many conversations in Faculty and elsewhere about clarifying decision-making while maintaining a Thinking Environment.
What have you noticed that might support your decision-making?
What else have you discovered about this that works for you – I would love to know.