Consent instead of Consensus – Agile Decision-Making

Teams and groups working on projects must make decisions – and together. As a rule, these decisions cannot be taken until everyone gives their consent. If there is even one person with a veto, the decision-making process can be very protracted. This is definitely not the best solution. Consent and the accompanying agile decision-making are the magic words.

What is the difference between consensus and consensus?

That sounds the same. Nevertheless, there is a simple and very crucial difference. Consensus is made when everyone is in favour. However, the Consent states that decisions are taken when there is nothing more against them. The small but subtle difference makes a huge difference in practice in the end. It is not the majority that decides, but the best available argument.

Groups and teams nowadays often work by consensus without even knowing it. The democratic background has shaped us so much that these values are anchored in us – so also in the working environment. Everyone has to be satisfied and doing it as best as possible. However, this can be incredibly time consuming and cost a lot of nerves. If everyone agrees, decisions can be made without any problems, but there is even a veto that this person automatically has the power over the group. The decision cannot be made and there may be inequalities and conflicts. This can divide the group and also have a very negative impact on the project. The Consent, on the other hand, circumvents this problem and offers many advantages that clearly overshadow the consensus.

What is agile decision-making and what are the benefits?

The Consent is a crucial element of the sociocracy. Sociocracy is one of the most developed models when it comes to democratic participation in organisations. It consists of the four basic principles:

  • Decision-making in the Konsent
  • Structure of the organization in semi-autonomous circles
  • double link in the circles
  • open elections for essential functions and roles

In the Consent, it is not the majority that decides, but the best available argument.] This argument and the resulting decision remains in the consent until someone from the group has a serious objection. Contrary to consensus, this objection is not tantamount to a veto. Much more, the objection can be actively and profitably integrated into the decision. This improves decisions or fails to take them for a serious reason. If the latter is the case, then of course that is a good thing.

Anyone affected can object. It is often the case that empirical testing makes more sense. This is because many ideas sound good in theory, but do not prove themselves in practice. That’s why everything speaks for the agile decision-making of the consent. Consensus often attempts are made to make very long-term decisions. That is why they must be well thought out and everyone must agree to them.

Two questions are asked in the Konsent:

  1. Is the decision good enough for now and safe enough to try?
  2. Can I live with it until the next evaluation?

This agile approach allows decisions to be made faster and better. Decisions are taken that are sufficient for the present time. They then have to prove themselves in practice. If they do not do so and there are objections, they will be heard and appropriately involved in the decision.

This creates a more relaxed coexistence. Where consensus objections can be nerve-wracking and very time-consuming, they are helpful and profitable in the consensus.

The Konsent moderator – an important building block

In any discussion, you need someone to lead and moderate them. Otherwise, it can lead to disputes and not everyone being heard or the discussion going out of hand. That is why there is also a corresponding moderator in the Konsent. At best, he should be a neutral person so that a clear distinction can be made.

However, the role of the Konsent moderator is very demanding. He must have both a good understanding and an empathic empathy with the group members and always be safe in dealing with the leadership of the group. One of the most important tasks for the moderator is to prepare the decision-making process. This means: Who participates? What is on the agenda? How should the discussion be moderated?

Keeping the order is also essential. In the Konsent, everyone is listened to without exception, so that an opinion can be formed and the best argument can be chosen. In advance, a sequence of participants is determined. They must be adhered to so as not to confuse anyone and not to ignore anyone.

In some way, what has been said must be recorded. This is done either by a classic protocol or by a flipchart. Finally, it should be made clear once again that the Konsent moderator is not a decision-maker, but should ensure a structured process. The final decisions and concerns come exclusively from the group.

Conclusion – Why Konsent is better

Consensus and consent, two almost identical words, but with a serious difference in decision-making. Consensus will not take a decision until everyone really votes in favour and there is no longer a veto. The Konsent, on the other hand, is an agile decision-making method. Decisions are taken here when there is nothing more against it.

Unlike consensus, these decisions are not set in stone. Justified objections can be used to amend and thereby improve decisions. The approach used here is an empirical one. Konsent is about trying out these decisions in practice and thereby finding out what works and what doesn’t. This has the immense advantage that decisions can be made faster and better. In addition, there are less disagreements and disputes in teams. All in all, agile decision-making in the consent is an outstanding method of carrying out projects in groups.

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