Consensus Decisions -- Policy v. Operations
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2017 13:06:46 -0800 (PST)
(This is a copy of my blog post at sociocracy.info which is prettier. 
www.sociocracy.info)

In response to the discussion about Rob and his teaching that we try to use 
consensus for decisions that are not “consensus decisions,” I neglected to 
address the issue in terms of policy decisions and operations decisions.

In sociocracy, consent and consensus decision-making are only used for policy 
decisions. Policy decisions are those that govern actions and allocation of 
resources (budget, people, etc.). This still leaves questions for many people 
about when to use consent and consensus decision-making.
Operations decisions are the day-to-day moment-to-moment activities that 
implement policies. Operations decisions are normally made autocratically by 
the leader or by an individual who has been delegated a task. “Autocratic” 
doesn’t mean a dictatorship, however. Leadership style is determined by those 
being lead as well as the leader.
Policy: What, Who, Where, When, and Why.

Policies govern the 5 W’s of journalism — What, Who, Where, When, and Why.
Operations: How

Operations decisions govern the sixth W, the How.
When to Use Consent and Consensus Decision-making?

It’s not a fine line but using the 5 W’s plus How helps determine when to use 
consent and consensus to make decision. Consensus makes the best policy 
decisions. Autocratic or strong leader decisions, however,  enable quick 
decisions and effective actions. Sports Teams, for example, function 
autocratically on the field for a reason—everyone has to make split second 
decisions. In this context, stopping to get consent would produce a no-win 
result.
Sports Teams function autocratically on the field for a reason—they make split 
second decisions. In this context, stopping to get consent would be a no win 
result.
Everyone Participates in Policy Decisions

A major difference in sociocractic decision-making is that both kinds of 
decisions involve the same people. Policy decisions are made with the consent 
of everyone, participating as equals. Since the operations leader and the other 
members of the group have consented to the policies that govern how the 
operations leader will lead, the leadership style is chosen by consent and 
governed by policies that govern the  operations leader’s decisions.
Not all operations leaders function equally autocratically. This is a group 
decision. It doesn’t mean that a group can’t reach consensus or even discuss as 
a group how to double-dig the garden, for example, but it isn’t necessary and 
can be counter-productive. If the aim is to get the double-digging done, 
debates on the ethical issues involving the death experiences of worms will not 
accomplish the group’s purpose.
Operations follow policy. If the policy could be better, it is fixed later. If 
there isn’t a policy, the leader will determine the best solution and a policy 
will be addressed in the next policy meeting. The leader can consult, and would 
be stupid if they didn’t, but the point is to execute policy decisions.
If the aim is to get the double-digging done, debates on ethical issues 
involving the death experiences of worms will not accomplish the group’s 
purpose.
The 5 W’s plus How

If there is a proposal to increase privacy by the playground, the policy 
questions needing to be addresses might be:
        • What is meant by privacy
        • Who is responsible for executing the policy
        • Where does the policy apply
        • When will it be executed
        • Why is the policy necessary and what does it intend to do
The How with all its details are then handed over to the operations leader who 
will determine how the policy will be implemented or accomplished in daily 
actions.
Since our 5 W’s plus one are being applied outside journalism, there would also 
be a budget for people and labor and a specific plan for evaluation of results. 
And the  Why would probably be considered first.
Governance v. Execution

Policy decisions don’t change from day-to-day. Governance is normally very 
stable. Operations decisions can change as necessary, even daily.
Policies should be reviewed annually but not changed unless there is a reason 
to do so. If there are changes in the group’s function or there is new 
information, policies can be revised at any time in policy meetings using the 
consent and consensus decision-making process .
Policy decisions govern operations decisions.
Sharon
----
Sharon Villines
Sociocracy: A Deeper Democracy
http://www.sociocracy.info



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