Generative decision making process

Generative-Decision-MakingCollective decision making made efficient (yes, it’s possible!)

Making decisions together does not have to be long and painful. The realm of “consent based decision making” is not well known even though it can help organisations make decisions collectively efficiently and wisely. We use this at Percolab, a consultancy company supporting social innovation and collaboration, based in Canada and France.

We developed Generative Decision Making Process, a consent based decision making process built on the Integrated decision making method of Holacracy with the culture and practice of Art of Hosting. We use it every week at Percolab. Our record is 19 strategic decisions in one hour!

The process requires a host, ideally, the host rotates from person to person. At Percolab everyone can run this type of decision making and we rotate organically depending on the day.

When first developing the practice it can be helpful for an organisation to invite in an external host for an initiation or supportive coaching to develop the internal skills.

1. Ripeness

Is the time ripe for the decision? Is the context clear? Is there information or data that needs to be gathered? Could an open conversation help develop the ripeness?

Hosting tips: You might need to offer the group one or two open conversation time slots to get to this point (ex. I am going to put the timer on for 10 minutes while you explore the topic in question). Offer supplementary time slots as necessary. You might need to conclude that the decision is not ripe, and this is ok. Listen in deeply and when you sense that there is a possible proposal in the air, the time is ripe. Invite the group to head into the next step.

2. Proposal Version I

Invite the group — would someone like to make an initial proposal? This will help the group move forward into action and there will be lots of opportunities to fine tune the proposal together.

Hosting tips: Help the proposer name a proposal in ideally one single sentence. Avoid the proposal spreading into multiple proposals. Ensure that the proposal is written for all to see (separate from the proposer) and repeat it out loud.

3. Clarifications

The group has the opportunity to voice questions to the proposer. The proposer has two options to answer — i) Provides the answer or ii) Says « Not specified » if the answer is unknown.

Hosting tips: If someone is speaking without a question (ie. reaction) remind him that is question period. Ensure that all questions are directed at the proposer and no one else intervenes. Avoid letting the proposer speak about anything further than the direct answer(keep it tight). Sense into when the clarification period is about to finish (ie. people are ready to react).

4. Reactions

It is mandatory that each person (minus the proposer) expresses to the group their reaction to the proposal; the different voices and perspectives of all need to be heard. The proposer listens deeply and take notes. Afterwards the proposer will craft a new version of the proposal.

Hosting tips: Begin with the person who has the most reactive emotion and then go around, until everyone has shared their reaction. Make sure that the reaction is not about the proposer, but about the proposal itself — correct if necessary.

 

5. Proposal version II

The proposer formulates a new version of the proposal in light of all that has been spoken. The host ensures that it is written and visible to all and reads it out loud.

Hosting tips: If you feel that the proposer might want to stay with the same proposal, remind her that she can. If you sense that the proposer needs support in formulating the second version, remind her that it is possible to ask for help — however do not rush into saying this.

6. Objections

An objection needs to express a risk or a backward movement for the organisation/initiative. All objections are expressed to the host who then decides if the objection is valid or not. If it is valid, then the proposer needs to integrate it into a new version of the proposal. (Then the objection round is repeated).

Hosting tips:Sometimes people might express personal concerns that are not in fact organisational risks. This needs to be differentiated. If it is fuzzy you may ask for help to the group. This is the hardest part of the process for the host.

7. Visual confirmation

Everyone visually confirms I can live with this decision by raising their thumb. This is a way of allowing all to see that everyone is fully onboard with this decision. If there is something that has not been spoken that needs to be it will show up because a person will be unable to raise his thumb. This can happen when (i) someone is struggling to find words to put on an idea that is important to them or (ii) someone is disengaging in the process (holding on to the possibility to question the decision in the hallway thereafter). Either way it will need to be addressed and the group needs to return to the part of the process that was not fully addressed.

Note: It is good to have visual confirmation as a cultural cue with which the process may be fast tracked. Someone makes a proposal and you can just do a quick check in to see right away if everyone could live with it.

Hosting tips: This is not a decision council and it is not an opportunity to lower thumbs and restart a process. It is simply a visual confirmation. If the process has run smoothly all thumbs should be raised.   If someone is struggling to find voice for an objection kindly support the person and let them know that all information is important.

This sums up the process. A final word just like playing the piano, don’t expect to get it perfect first go. It does take some practice.

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This article is also published on Medium in Percolab Droplets

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Invitation : 5 to 7 Series Tasting our practices, January 23, 30 and February 6, 2018 Montreal

Workshop-Percolab-Montreal-2018

INVITATION

  • Location

    Montréal, Canada

    ECTO, 936 av. Mont-Royal Est, 2e étage, Montréal H2J 1X2

  • Date

    January 23, 30 and February 6, 2018

  • Hours

    5:30 PM

  • Organizer

    Percolab

In January, percolab is offering a series of gatherings to help you put the human at the center of your work and (why not?) join the revolution of organizations. A learning & networking event in one, light and enjoyable with drinks and snacks after work, to share a few practices that we use at Percolab daily.

#1 (January 23) – Opening. How to open up to new possibilities? Energize your practices to open and close your meetings well.
#2 (January 30) – Emergence. How to respond to what is emerging and live with uncertainty? Adjusting with agility and listening to what is there.
#3 (February 6)- Decision. How to converge on a collective decision that allows us to move forward. Practice consent-based decision making.

Cost: We invite you to engage with the shared economy. (We openly share the costs associated with running the event, and as a group we share those costs and look at value openly. The last time we hosted an evening workshop like this people contributed between $15 and $50)

More information about our experiences using this model:
https://medium.com/percolab-droplets/there-is-more-than-one-way-to-price-a-workshop-experiments-in-shared-economy-2c36f25ea0c7

  • Organizer name

    Meghan and Laurence

  • Contact

    meghan [at] percolab.com,  laurence [at] percolab.com

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What are you doing on Tuesday? Or why Percolab has open team meetings.

“Well, why don’t you just come to one of our team meetings?” I say to the barista, “They are every Tuesday from 10 am to noon at the ECTO Coworking.”

He nods seriously and notes the time and place on a napkin behind the counter. I pick up my latte and wander off to one of the tables in the corner to work out a team budget proposal for one of our upcoming projects.

Inviting not-so-random folks to Percolab’s team meetings has become one of my everyday practices. I must extend at least 5 or 10 of these invitations a week. Sometimes these invitations are received as a gift and a possibility, like in the case of this barista who has just finished a graduate degree in urban planning and is interested in citizen co-design and consultation – one of Percolab’s areas of expertise. He had recognized me from a strategic planning session I had facilitated for one of the units at the university he attended.

Other times, the invitations are received by eyes wide with disbelief as though I had invited this human I have just met to my Sunday family brunch: please bring the mimosas and then you can go jump on the trampoline with the kids and Matante Guylaine.

“Why would you invite me to a team meeting?” said human demands, “Don’t you deal with, like, internal stuff at your meetings?”

“Yes,” I confirm, “we deal with internal stuff. Some of it is strategic, some of it is operational, some of is has to do with our personal dynamics, the first Tuesday of the month is about Percolab International. Some meetings deal with money and how we self-attribute our earnings, sometimes we even process conflicts in our team meetings. Like I said, Tuesday at 10 am – you should just come participate.”

“Um, OK, I can come observe,”says the human, “I am really curious. I won’t be distracting. I promise.”

“Yeah…well… no, that won’t work,” I reply with a suppressed smile, “I’m not inviting you to come observe us. We are people not hamsters. I’m inviting you to come be with us, to participate. Help us think through our challenges and issues, bring in all of your experience, and intelligence, and wisdom, contribute to our decision-making.”

“Really?” the human inquires, “But you only just met me! How can I understand all of your context and policies and regulations? How can I possibly contribute to decision-making? What will your boss say?”

“Well, to start off with there are no bosses at Percolab, we are a truly flat organization and we make decisions through a consent-based approach. And of course you can’t possibly understand everything we are about. But attending a team meeting is sure a more effective way of getting to know us than reading our “About” page online. If we are discussing an issue that needs to be decided upon and you, from your understandably limited perspective, are able to see a potential risk to the organization, we are gonna listen and take that into account as we move forward.”

“OK,” says the human – I can see that they are getting really curious, “but will I be the only stranger there?”

“I have no idea,” I say, “we’ll know when you show up! Some weeks we have no guests (we don’t call them strangers), often we have one or two, and a few times when several members have been out working with clients, we have had three times as many guests as Percolab members! Those weeks are usually great for brainstorming about issues we’ve been trying to work through, like rethinking our website.”

“Doesn’t it get exhausting having new people at your meetings every week?” inquires the human.

“It can be,” I admit, “Some weeks I’ve been downright grumpy about having to host new people into a team meeting, especially when there is a topic that is really important to me. Yet, again and again, I find our guests help me think through some tough questions about both our work with clients and how we work together as a team. Especially, if the person doesn’t “get” what we do easily, it challenges us to be clearer in how we speak about ourselves and cleaner in how we work together. So I might arrive grumpy but I almost always leave energized… coffee helps.”

“What type of people come to your meetings?” they ask.

“Some of the guests at meetings are interested in collaborating with us, some want to study us for academic purposes, some attend our meetings so they can learn about self-management and maybe even bring new practices to their own organizations, some are international experts passing through Montreal who want to jam with us, some are clients we already work with or are thinking of working with us – attending our meetings gives them a really good practical sense of our applied knowledge. One of my favourite things to do is invite all the participants in my workshops to come to a team meeting. You should see their faces!”

“OK, I’m in!” exclaims my new human friend, “I’ve been wanting to learn about self-management for a long time but I haven’t been too sure if my team is ready for it. Seeing it in action would really be helpful. It makes me feel a lot better to think that I won’t just be some voyeur and I can contribute with any knowledge or experience I already have. I find this idea of open meetings really inspiring and unusual. You guys sure are brave to do this!”

“Well…” I respond cautiously. I want to be able to accept this compliment but at the same time I am slightly irked that this practice that I find so normal is deemed as brave. “Well, we have a choice: we can talk about collaboration or actually experiment and experience what it is like to work with “strangers”. We can talk about transparency or open ourselves up to others so we can truly be seen, for better or worse, and understand ourselves and our blind spots better. We can talk about collective intelligence or actively engage in thinking with other people who come from really different backgrounds. To me and to probably everyone else at Percolab too, opening up our team meetings is a practical benefit to the organization, the generosity people show us by sharing their insights into our work is amazing. But opening our team meetings is also a meaningful and symbolic act: we are a fractal of how we would like organizations to function in the world. Imagine, if governments and institutions and corporations and foundations and community organizations had as their base model meetings that were open, transparent, collaborative, and drew on collective intelligence? Just that. Imagine that. ”

“Whoa!” says the human, “I’m gonna need to wrap my mind around that one. Maybe we can talk about that after the meeting on Tuesday.”

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À quoi sert une formation percolab?

Je suis consciente que notre approche de formation est non-conventionnelle, voir déstabilisante pour les participants.  

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Formation auprès des élus et agents de développement économique du Québec.

Il y a trois motivations derrière notre modèle  :

  1. Connecter ses façons de travailler avec des cadres conceptuels pour créer du sens.
  2. Vivre des expériences qui permettent d’entrer dans des subtilités pour amplifier sa manière de travailler.
  3. Construire sur ce que l’on fait déjà si bien avec plus de conscience.
insertion sociale

Atelier offert au secteur des entreprises d’insertion sociale du Québec.

Pas évident d’avoir des indicateurs sur de telles intentions.

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Des participants en plein travail lors d’un atelier sur les Méthodes d’intelligence collective.

Quand Philippe Garon, un participant d’une formation en région (Gaspésie, Québec), m’a fait un retour sur son expérience, ça m’a fait chaud au coeur. J’entends l’impact à travers son récit.

Garon_Festival_Caraquet

Philippe Garon en action professionnelle.

“Bonjour !

Je suis un artiste multidisciplinaire qui vit en Gaspésie. J’offre aussi mes services en rédaction, correction et animation. Grâce à la direction régionale du ministère de la Culture et des Communications, j’ai eu la chance de suivre une formation de Percolab avec Samantha Slade ici à Bonaventure en juillet 2015. En compagnie de 15 autres intervenant(e)s culturels de toute la région, j’ai pu me familiariser avec de nouvelles techniques de mobilisation créative. Quelle belle bouffée d’oxygène ! Nous avons pu nous familiariser avec plusieurs méthodes originales pour dynamiser les rencontres des multiples organisations qui œuvrent dans nos milieux. Samantha a réussi à adapter le contenu et son approche en fonction de nos réalités.

Personnellement, depuis cette formation, j’applique le plus possible dans mon travail mes apprentissages et je sens réellement une différence. Mes clients aiment expérimenter des activités qui sortent de l’ordinaire dans le cadre de leurs réunions. Leur efficacité et le plaisir qu’ils éprouvent à travailler ensemble s’en trouvent décuplés. Mais au-delà des méthodes que nous pouvons maintenant leur proposer, il y a l’importance de l’ambiance, de l’atmosphère que nous installons au sein des équipes que nous aidons. Mettre l’accent sur l’énergie positive, sur l’intelligence collective. Offrir aux gens un maximum d’espace pour leur permettre de s’exprimer et prendre le temps de vraiment les écouter. Encourager le questionnement, le rire, l’accueil des émotions, la réflexion, la créativité et la recherche d’idées audacieuses. Voilà un programme ambitieux, mais tellement motivant ! Percolab m’a donné le goût de pousser plus loin la maîtrise de l’art d’animer pour aider les gens de chez nous.”

IMG_3585

Philippe Garon en plein travail lors de la formation percolab dans sa région.

Merci Philippe pour un retour si ouvert. Si vous avez un retour apprenant suite à un atelier ou expérience percolab, svp partagez!!

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What is self-management, really?

What’s the difference between participatory management and self-management?

If you’re an agile learning organisation, does that mean that you practice self-management? Almost, but not quite, is the short answer.

Since 2007, the social enterprise percolab functions with a strong learning culture and edgy practice.  Nobody tells anyone what to do, people show up as their full selves and purpose is the driving force behind the work. Percolab helps clients create the conditions for collaboration and adaptable organizational culture. We work with a wide range of clients from community groups through to government and startups. We use a blend of ancient and new social methodologies and a dash of technology.

Each new person who joins the team (we are 10 and growing) has to figure out  how to get on in this nonconventional company. Many typical employee  behaviours are difficult to play out as the other party (ie. the employer) doesn’t cooperate as a boss. The team ensures most staff support functions. We all partake in business development, communication, marketing, invoicing and human resources. Everyone works when and where they want, even though our offices are in coworkings. Anyone can manage projects or start a collective venture. No one asks permission to take vacation, attend an event or training. Our team meetings take place in circle.

paul

Percolab team member working where and when he wishes.

Yet, despite all that freedom and innovative practice, who was making  the significant strategy decisions? The two co-founders! Flattening the organisational processes and practicing collective intelligence was not enough for the company to flourish in self-management.  The company needed a new structure to support the team to lean forward and the co-founders to lean back.

As the team grew  we were becoming less and less comfortable with the title of “Co-directors”. The notion of “directing” someone seemed contrary to the working culture we were nourishing.  The co-director titles were maintaining a hierarchical paradigm we were stepping away from. Could we not be co-learning and co-evolving  together instead?

The big shift

In 2015 two shifts happened at percolab. First, the co-founders shared the financial files of the company with the whole team. Yes, financial reporting, invoicing, budgets, expenses, payroll was now available to all. Second, the co-founders brought 12 key strategic proposals to the team.  The whole team openly discussed the proposals and adopted them together. These two acts are what set percolab into its full self-managing swing. The co-founders were becoming conscious of the subtleties of power dynamics. The team was not going to self-organise without a formal structure that could help us unravel our habits. Team members needed to stop deferring to the co-founders for figuring things out.  The co-founders needed to stop making decisions for others before anyone could get involved.

How had we found ourselves at this place? Easy enough. The co-founders had been making strategic decisions since the company’s beginnings. Space and freedom for the team was not enough for others to elbow in.  Our daily culture of collective intelligence, experimentation and openness created the illusion that we were self-governing.  It was not easy to see that co-founders were excluding the team from key financial information and strategic decision making. The classic dynamics of money and power were amongst us!

A new structure

As collaborative practitioners with a self-organising mindset we have been able to shift quite naturally and in a way that we can be proud of. Once we had made a collective decision to modify our functioning, change flowed  easily. Within weeks we were set up in a light version of self-management. We integrated certain principles from holacracy. We mapped out the myriad tasks of the company and grouped them into 30 roles that we co-wrote together. We held a workshop to attribute the roles. We all took on roles that we wanted or roles that someone else thought we could steward well. No one assigned anyone a role. It was clear that the roles would rotate between us over time. As simple as that, authority was now distributed within the organisation. Given our ease with prototyping novel practices, working with roles feels good.  It’s a practice that we will play with and fine tune for a long time forward, as learners.

Lessons learned

Today, we are a more conscious team. We know how easily hierarchical command and control reflexes can creep up, even on those who work in participatory ways.  We are clear that there is no need to be making all decisions all together. We trust other team members to make wise decisions for the company using exemplary decision making processes. In the next articles we will share the nuts and bolts of how we got rolling on our self-organising structure.  For now, here are the three lessons that stand out.

1. Being a purpose driven, funky and participatory company does not equate to self-management.

2. With a strong learning and experimentation culture, the shift to self-organisation is a relief and release.

3. Self-management doesn’t just spontaneously happen, it needs to be named and structured.

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