Consent-based decision making

Consent-based decision making (in its variations also called participatory, peer-based decision making, dynamic governance, sociocracy, holacracy etc.) is another method to increase flow and reduce waste.


It works with consent as a constraint to increase flow and reduce waste in decision making.


Because it wants to avoid the negative consequences of existing models of decision making:

  • Autocratic decision making  = rule of very small minority, everyone else ignored / no rights
  • Majority vote = rule of majority ignores minority and dissenting opinions
  • Consensus = decision making stalls for lack of consensus or only agreeing on smallest denominator which doesn’t address problems/challenges adequately

In all three existing models a large number of people is left disempowered and disengaged and the decision making method is not robust in delivering quality outcomes.


Now what?
It is not an option anymore to just decide, outvote or wait for others to agree. This means we have to come up with a better way of how we make decisions together. The key criterium is not having a paramount, reasoned objection. In the absence of that, proposals move forward.

The decision for consent-based decision making triggers a whole lot of new organisational issues like:

  • What are the criteria for making / objecting / amending / rejecting a proposal?
  • What is the area/domain which is covered by a proposal?
  • Who is allowed to make / object / amend / reject a proposal?
  • When are we allowed to make proposals?
  • And how do proposals cascade and relate, depending on the levels of organization?

So defining and organizing these becomes important. And a whole lot of other stuff…

For a concise 4 minute introduction to sociocracy (full disclosure: I am acting as Chair for Sociocracy for All, a sociocratic organisation):

Some possible relationships:

A link with other models could be co- and self-regulation. To achieve successful self-regulation, we need to build on a platform of co-regulation. This means securing a safety first (like in early development of humans/children, see attachment theory (Bowlby/Ainsworth) and polyvagal theory (Porges).

In this sense, sociocracy concerns itself more with co-regulation as conditions for peaceful and successful organisations and societies, whereas holacracy seems to focus more on self-regulation, breaking down the barriers for individuals to successfully self-regulate within organisations.

On a purpose level, the co-regulation approach seems to be close to the stakeholder approach, which creates the conditions for organisations to focus on delivering value for customers. A shareholder value approach seems to be like self-regulation which is not well co-regulated.