You have gained a freedom from management and any kind formal leadership! Rejoice! You can make decisions on your own… so how do you make decisions? Do you expect people to offer themselves as volunteers? Do you wish that somebody stands up and takes the charge? Or do you hope that there is enough communication about purpose and vision so that people know what to do? You start a discussion on a subject, all right, and then you decide based on common understanding or based on majority?
I am following up a group of people who are working together as a team. The team follows a modern management style where there is no authority above them telling what to do or in what order to do – rather the business goals are given as a prioritized list and then the goal of the team is to produce as much business value to the organization as they can, and learn together to get better in it.
First of all, appointing one to take decisions on the behalf of others is wrong way to go: we are coming away from that kind of thinking. What about these other options?
“The right decision will emerge”: the time constraints usually knock this option out. In life in general you can let the idea sink in and wait for the day when it becomes clear, but a group of people cannot get anywhere by floating.
“Individual volunteerism”: a group of people is not really a team if people sign up separately to tasks. If you are looking for a best possible solution or best person then voluntary assignment should be totally banned.
“Most trustworthy person takes the charge”: the famous “somebody” will carry the load and others can drop their gloves? Others can concentrate on items while there is one who looks after the whole? This leads to major problems in individual level and burns the most valuable players up, sooner or later.
“Vision and purpose driven team” can be self-guided, like a heat-seeking missile. The complexity theory explains that the more complex this kind of organization is the better it can respond to the changes in the environment. They will always promote the wisest thing. But even this high level of team maturity does not just magically come into life. “Together” is a state which has to be worked for, it is not a way of being or a static state of being.
How do you create shared knowledge and seek elevated understanding? Trusting on slow emergence of right decisions can be very time consuming. Do you share principles that all agree with? When the conflict arises do you have mechanisms to get through, or do you just walk away by saying “I did not agree – so I left”? Or do you want to work with only those you agree with?
I am personally charmed by the example of the bahá’í-community related to the consultative and collaborative decision-making what they call ‘consultation’ where maintaining the unity in all situations is most precious and progress of all is real progress:
The purpose is to emphasize the statement that consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth. He who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus of opinion, for the light of reality becomes apparent when two opinions coincide. A spark is produced when flint and steel come together. Man should weigh his opinions with the utmost serenity, calmness and composure. Before expressing his own views he should carefully consider the views already advanced by others. If he finds that a previously expressed opinion is more true and worthy, he should accept it immediately and not willfully hold to an opinion of his own. By this excellent method he endeavors to arrive at unity and truth. Opposition and division are deplorable. It is better then to have the opinion of a wise, sagacious man; otherwise, contradiction and altercation, in which varied and divergent views are presented, will make it necessary for a judicial body to render decision upon the question. Even a majority opinion or consensus may be incorrect. A thousand people may hold to one view and be mistaken, whereas one sagacious person may be right. Therefore, true consultation is spiritual conference in the attitude and atmosphere of love. Members must love each other in the spirit of fellowship in order that good results may be forthcoming. Love and fellowship are the foundation.
(“The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during the visit to United States and Canada in 1912”)
We are consciously and steadily heading towards distributed decision-making society and values-driven autonomous action through active corporate and community citizenship. The consultation model above urges that when maturity of thinking develops the more crucial applying values becomes. Elevated concept of work requires elevated values base. “Love and fellowship” was not needed in the command and control decision making era – but in the organizations of today it is an essential currency.
Many of the processes, like Scrum, puts into place some basic practicalities, and applying them teaches us necessary principles, and once we have learned the principles the process becomes redundant. Consultation sounds like an ideal companion in learning how to be together.