Three methods for making effective decisions in an agile and self-managed organization.

Baptiste Grand
5 min readMar 17, 2023
Foto von Joshua Sukoff auf Unsplash

Decentralised decision-making is essential to empowering employees to make more strategic and operational decisions on their own without managerial handholding. It is an essential skill that agile organizations need to be more responsive and adaptable to changing customer needs and market conditions.

Indeed, decentralised decision-making fosters a culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation among teams, as they are given autonomy and freedom to make choices that keep their projects moving forward. By delegating authority and responsibility to the people who have local context and detailed knowledge of the technical complexities of the current situation, self-managed organizations can achieve higher quality, faster delivery, and lower costs. However, decentralised decision-making also requires clear guidelines, alignment of goals and values, effective communication, feedback mechanisms, and accountability for outcomes. Therefore, agile leaders need to balance between centralising decisions that affect the several parts of the organization, and decentralising decisions that can be made by individual teams or members based on their expertise and experience.

This balancing act was a challenge for the experts of XITASO, but we designed three different decision-making processes that help us every day.

🙋‍♂️ Advice Process

The advice process allows anyone in an organization to make decisions by seeking feedback from those who have expertise or will be affected by the outcome. It balances speed and quality of decisions, as well as creates more engaged and effective workers. However, it also requires trust, transparency, accountability and alignment of goals and values among the participants. Therefore, it is important to use the advice process wisely and respectfully.

With the Advice Process, the right people make decisions at the right level with inputs from relevant and knowledgeable colleagues. The Advice Process results in the right people making the decisions where they are needed, based on the input and knowledge of all relevant colleagues. It is particularly well suited when decisions need to be made quickly or when many aspects and perspectives need to be considered.

How is the decision maker determined?
Explicit Decision Maker*s:
A group can explicitly determine the decision-maker, e.g., if this person stands out due to special commitment or expertise.
Implicit Decision Maker*s:
Often the decision maker is already implicitly determined. In this case, it is the person who first recognized the opportunity or problem or who is most affected by it.

Decision-makers in the Advice Process are deliberately not required to reach a consensus. It is up to you whether and how much advice is sought and whether these are considered in the decision-making process.

🧪 Consent

If a decision is important or trendsetting for the entire team or the work of a community, we apply the consensus principle. Based on the sociocracy model, this process corresponds fully to agile principles, as the goal is not to develop 100% solutions, but to learn as quickly as possible and to improve the decision iteratively.

The core of the decision-making process is NOT to achieve a result that everyone can agree to, but rather to decide on a result that no one has any serious objections to. Vetoes without justification are ruled out but a serious objection can stop the decision if real risks that endanger the goals of the company or of the project are identified.

Moderators have several tasks:
They ensure that everyone is sufficiently informed — even before the actual meeting — so that time is not spent in pointlessly and endlessly debating the topic, due to insufficient knowledge or preparation.

They also ensure that after the presentation of the topic at hands, all participants have sufficient speaking time and get heard. They should use any technics to ensure a calm and efficient discussion.

🔄️ Systemic Consensus

If there are several known options to choose from, we simply apply Systemic Consensus. It helps to minimize the potential for conflict in controversial decisions, while making sure that all voices are being heard.

From a series of self-developed solution proposals, this process identifies the proposal that experiences the least rejection in the group. This form of decision-making — Not asking the participants to agree to a proposal, but rather to determine the extent of resistance — enables a result that comes closest to consensus. The extent of the group’s total resistance is determined by added “resistance points” for each individual and for each solution. The solution with the lowest number of resistance points is therefore closest to a consensus. Easy, Fast, and truly inclusive.

TL;DR

Making effective decisions in an agile environment is challenging. As hierarchies are ever changing, based on the issue at hand, it is impossible to rely on one person or one role, such as team leader, to decide for others.

Distributing the decision-making process is the only way to go. It requires nonetheless that people that were not used to it, must now be empowered to make decisions swiftly and effectively. XITASO experts agreed on three proven methods and they now cover 80% of all our daily cases.

  • Advice Process for issues requiring expert knowledge.
  • Consent-based Process for issues that require innovative solution.
  • Systemic Consensus Process for issues bathed in ambivalence.

For internal communication purpose, we created posters that present these three processes. We also hope to share them with whoever find them useful :)

👉 You can download the poster here: XITASO-Decision-Posters-Set-EN.pdf

Cheers, Baptiste.

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Baptiste Grand

I’m an Agile Coach that wants to inspire you to seek happiness in your work and your life, by changing the way we do stuff.