The Path of least Resistance
Making decisions has never come easily to me, there are days when choosing what I want in a sandwich is a tedious process. So when Kathrin told us she was going to Germany to learn about a decision-making approach, which she would then share with all of us, I was more than happy to soak up anything she had to share.
Setting up and running a school involves some big decision-making, as does setting up or running any organisation. When the time comes to make one of these decisions many organisations fall into the hole of going round and round in circles before coming to a conclusion. The prospect of finding a way to avoid this, knowing my indecisive mind, was very inviting!
The technique we are learning is called Systemic Consensing.
Now the name itself may be a bit of a mouthful. When telling a friend I was training in this, I could tell by their face that the title screamed boring and complicated!
But as the old saying goes "don’t judge a book by its cover".
Just after one group training session with Kathrin I already love the concept which is basically choosing the path of least resistance when making a decision.
By the way Kathrin is such a wonderful and thoughtful facilitator! She has facilitated this and most of our team days with so much love and creativity gone into each activity.
Once you change the language to something child friendly I can see how hours of debating at home could be avoided!
Another aspect I looove in systemic consensing is it allows for EVERYONE’S voice to be heard.
It can often happen that 2 or 3 people with the loudest voices dominate a meeting and the decisions are made on that.
Systemic Consensing just doesn’t allow for that!
We have already begun practising this decision-making approach in our weekly Zoom meetings and I cant wait to put this into practice in the school.
So while many things around the world have been drawn to halt we at WCSS are still busy bees, with our weekly Zoom meetings, online training courses and tasks behind the scenes.
We continue to grow, learn and up-skill so that we can put our best foot forward when we open our doors.
Systemic Consensing. I am in love!
There is so much I want to share about this human-centred (or better yet: heart-centred) approach to decison-making, that quite frankly I do not know where to begin.
Although Systemic Consensing might sound boring & complicated, I promise you. It is not.
It simply is new and unfamiliar, but so was the zipper at some point in history. So bear with me!
Let’s start with something familiar and relatable.
For most people, majority rule has become second nature and it doesn't even occur to us that it is too a decision making approach, like Systemic Consensing.
Majority rule works by stating your preference and in everyday life, it is usually negotiated via an either-or question.
Let’s look at a group-scenario, likely familiar to most of us including the quarrelling and the bad feelings when ‘losing’ a vote:
"What’s for dinner?"
It usually starts with someone asking a question:
Ben: ‘What should we have for dinner? Either pizza or curry? What are ye in favour of?’
Majority rule often times divides a group into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, which might prevent the defeated part of the group (‘losers’) from a committed contribution and can lead to de-motivation and inner resignation.
Let's see how someone who loves Pizza might feel if Curry 'won':
Liv: ‘What if I wanted pizza? Well, if everyone else wants to make curry, I ain't going to help prepare it!’
Within Majority Rule, we often experience that the quality of the decision can be overridden by the need to right and assert ourselves, or to push for our preferences.
Maybe Ben listed pizza amongst the options, because he knew that only Liv would be opposed to curry in favour of pizza...He certainly controls the outcome by phrasing an either-or question.
And why did no one else contribute with a third option? Is it, because they know, that if Ben doesn’t get his way, he will start a debate on the principals of a balanced diet?
All these questions are an integral part of Systemic Consensing:
How can we distribute power? How can we open an issue to more than a couple of options? How can we make sure everyone can contribute? How can we make sure the solution is acceptable for the group?
Systemic Consensing is about finding the best possible solution, ‘Together’.
There is no need for endless discussions that open up the stage for pushing agendas and power wielding.
Sounds great! But...how does that work?
One of the most integral parts of Systemic Consensing is that we ask for your objections, your ‘no’ to a suggestion which has a profound psychological impact on how people feel heard, appreciated and included in the process and therefore on how decisions are made.
(More on the exact procedure in an upcoming post!)
Another one is that the decision-making process starts by finding a suitable question.
Maybe it would make more sense to ask: ‘How are we organising dinner tonight?’
This would leave room for people who actually want to get involved, to make a suggestion that states exactly that. And for people who do not feel like doing anything for dinner to step back:
Liv wants pizza tonight and isn’t too bothered with cooking together:
‘Let's go out for pizza’
‘Let's order pizza’
Ben wants curry on the couch tonight:
‘I will make curry for dinner.’
‘Let's order Indian.’
‘Let's order Thai.’
Sue enjoys cooking and doesn’t mind what it is they cook:
‘I will help cook with anything.’
Sam would love for the group to have dinner together:
‘Let's order in. Anything goes.’
‘I will help cooking with anything.’
A third, very distinctive part of Systemic Consensing, is the so called “Passive Solution”, which investigates the option of “everything stays as is”, and can serve as an indicator in many useful ways, but more on that in another post!
In this case this could be:
Passive Solution: ‘We do not organise dinner. Everyone sees to their own needs.’
By evaluating this option for this example, we can gauge how important it is for the group to have dinner together. Maybe there is no need for a lengthy debate, because actually, everyone would rather go about their own business tonight.
If we come to a solution this way, it is most likely supported by everyone and by following this inclusive and transparent approach everyone feels heard and it is easier to accept a solution that benefits the group, although it might not have been the highest on your own list.
And perhaps even more importantly, it has a binding effect on the group: the entire group wins.
Advantages of Systemic Consensing in a nutshell:
increasing the sustainability of decisions
takes a group out of "either-or-szenarios" and activates creative potential
focusing on moving forward
activating group intelligence and transforming areas of tension into areas of action
distribution of power
creates high accountability
the argument is the ruler not the majority
adaptable for children
Believe you me, this is only the tip of the "Systemic Consensing-Iceberg", there is so much more to discover! Stay tuned.