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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Identifying How Decisions Are Made


Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results they are getting.

This is one of our refrains. Whereas many consulting companies do feasibility studies or manage capital campaigns, at The Suddes Group our aim is to help an organization *design* for the right results — and then help implement to get those results.

As is the case with design work and culture change, this is often messy, iterative, and complex. It requires that we identify leadership and the process by which to make necessary decisions (that will move the enterprise forward).

Drawing on several frameworks, here are the decision-making modes that we seek to identify, name, and direct.

1. Autocratic
2. Input
3. Democratic
4. Consensus
5. Unanimous

Autocratic: While this can have a negative application, there are times when a decision just needs to be made, in order to move forward quickly. Leaders of social impact organizations tend to default to building consensus, but during an organization’s infancy, or when there is no ‘right’ decision, it might require that someone ‘just make a decision.’

Input still has one (clearly defined) decision-maker, but that person gathers input from others first; this style places an emphasis on participation, listening, and openness.

Democratic and Consensus: These are similar in some ways — they both favor a majority (or highest vote tally). Stylistically, a democratic decision-making process can sometimes be polarizing (think: Congress). In contrast, consensus is about finding an option that tries to build the most bridges, and the most understanding of different points of view. Note: Practically speaking, you can see the difference in this way — a consensus-building process requires many more rounds of back-and-forth, revisions, etc.

Unanimous: This is the hardest and most time-consuming option, to get everyone involved to agree on the decision. It requires a deep commitment from the team to listen, to let go, and to move forward as one.

The power of these styles comes from being deliberate about DECLARING them and then COMMUNICATING them within a process or plan.