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integrated decision making process

Hi COP-Please see my SBAR about the integrated decision process

Situation: we need some feedback about governance process. Specifically around integrated decision making

Background:  We have been practicing with governance meetings for under a year.  Today we had one of our first really challenging governance meetings.  We have policy in one of our circles stating that if a workshop was cancelled the trainer who was meant to conduct that workshop should receive some compensation (not full compensation). The policy outlined one parameter in particular (when trainee numbers fall below a particular threshold).  Today a partner brought a tension about changing the policy to reflect another situation where a trainer should receive compensation (where the trainer is not a good fit for the project). The proposal ended with one other partner stating an objection and the two worked together to then creating a new version of the policy.  

Where this got complicated is the next item on the agenda was a different partner stating that the new policy itself should be scrapped and a newer shorter policy should replace it.  This met with a number of objections and we ran out of time in the meeting to process the tension some we are trying for our first time to do governance in email.  

The issue is that basically all 8 people on the call had a tension with the newly proposed policy.  It is likely that the proposer (P) and the first objector (O1) would have to come to some agreement but then we weren't sure after that first objection, how to treat the next objections.  Would the second objector (O2) be objecting to the new proposal suggested by P and O1? Who do they have to work with in the integration round? P only? It seemed likely that we would be in a situation where the solution for P and O2 might contradict or nullify some of the objections brought up by O1. Do we just keep going and going until everyone agrees? It seems counter to my understanding of the process.

In the end we decided we had two options

  • 1 continue to process this tension in email (a new process for us) and attempt using email as a new process for working through a governance tension or
  • 3 create a small working group that would hear people’s concerns and write a policy that implemented them all as best as they could (knowing that some concerns would not be addressed by this policy).

We decided to go with option 1 so that we could go down the objection train and continue to try and process this via the governance process.

Assessment: we are unclear on how we go from the first objection to the second objection especially where the second objector’s tensions might change things that were necessary to ease the first objector. Our fear is an unending loop of objections that ends in hands being thrown in the air.  

Request: Please share your thoughts on how to process objection after objection in a situation where there is much disagreement about the eventual outcome. It is possible we are overlooking something very simple so bear that in mind. Are we on the right track and it just takes time or should we think about it in another way (i.e. create a small working group to works through the issue)

Thanks!

6 Replies
Tom Mulder
12/19/2017

[@mention:550889693769022824]: interesting case. As we do not know the objections it is harder to provide you with an answer. First on the integration: You start with P and O1. If they state both that there objection/tension is integrated you use this new Proposal to integrate with O2 and so on (Art 3.3.5(f)). As Integration is an open dialog, in the start focused on Proposer and Objector (Objector what can be changed to remove your objection........), everybody can be part of the integration solution.

For me the biggest question is if the Objections come from roles of the Partners that are influenced by the Proposal. Do all these 8 people have roles that have Accountabilities related to the compensation of the Trainer role or is it a personal objection or helping the Circle in general.

Hope this helps.

Cheers, Tom

Chris Cowan
12/20/2017

Hey Sam, my thoughts...

1. 8 valid objections would be rare, so it's possible (as Tom mentioned) that some may have actually been invalid. That would have made the integration easier. But without specifics, I can't say. Although my gut tells me this is likely where the complication originates. 

2. It's also possible this was an invalid tension to process (see 3.2.2). Meaning, the proposer was making a proposal based on an "imagined issue" rather than a real example or real felt sense of a problem. Again, not sure, but that is something to look into.

3. Assuming 8 valid objections, then yes, it's quite possible that the first resolution (P + O1), could be "undone" by the next resolution (P+O2), or the next one, etc. The constitution's guidance is simply, "integrate until the objections are resolved," but the process for how to do that is unspecified. Again, hard to say how to handle this in a meeting w/o specifics, but my guess would be 1) try to do them one-at-a-time, checking in w/ each previous objector as well as the proposer to ensure the latest changes are still resolving all previous issues (as long as they are the same issues/objections, meaning they aren't new objections); or 2) resolve them one-at-a-time, but don't worry about "undoing" resolution to previous objections, then once you've completed integrating the last objection, do the second objection round and see how many pass the validity criteria now. Since the constitution says you need to integrate all objections, it may be a stretch in interpretation to say that you can do this, but again, without specifics, it's an option I might consider; 3) given the large number of objections, actually spend some time consciously brainstorming solutions which could resolve multiple objections. Usually not good practice, but in a situation like this, it might be the best way.

4. This is a bad case for asynchronous governance (i.e. email or GlassFrog), which should only be used for proposals which one can reasonably assume, "no one should have any questions about this," and if someone does, then the proposal should be escalated to a meeting. So, glad you went with option #2!

5.  However, even the small working group has a limitation, which is that the bias will likely be toward consensus rather than, "there are no objections," which is a subtle but important difference. Not to mention the other objection criteria (i.e. created by the proposal, known now, and from my role), which could easily get lost in the fray of an unfacilitated "working group" making the whole exercise more complicated, not less. Instead, I would continue to use the elected facilitator and the objection criteria, meaning...I would continue to use the governance process. Instead of a working group, just schedule a special governance meeting for this one issue, and keep scheduling them as necessary until it gets resolved. Not very elegant of course, but some issues are complex by nature, and they just take some time to untangle. 

Hope this helps! 

Sam Burnett
12/20/2017

[@mention:455886150941203371] and [@mention:523162737680436711]

Thank you both for your feedback.  I think there is a layer that i might have missed as well.  This is a policy about compensation and we are opening the policy to be edited by folks that would be compensated in that policy where the parameters of what or how we can compensate people is unclear (hence the disagreement).  The truth is that it might be something that would also be solved putting the domain of compensation onto a circle or role and have that group publish the policy with clear financial parameters in mind.  I think we will revisit this in an extraordinary governance meeting as you suggest and will encourage the next proposer to come with a solid proposal ahead of time for people to respond to.  

Gerald Mitterer
12/21/2017

Hi [@mention:550889693769022824],

I guess you are pointing to a very important aspect in your last statement. You should probably clarify which role has the authority to take decisions about compensation and with what constraints. Otherwise any change of such policy would result in many "people" being affected. And it can be really tricky in an early practice to sort out role-soul distinctions (eg compensation "it creates harm in all my roles") carefully and ground tensions in reality and objections in roles. 

Gerald

Chris Cowan
12/21/2017

[@mention:550889693769022824] -- Given this, "This is a policy about compensation and we are opening the policy to be edited by folks that would be compensated in that policy where the parameters of what or how we can compensate people is unclear (hence the disagreement)," the problem is that the objections don't meet criteria #3, i.e. it's a tension felt in one of the roles you fill. Seems like it's a tension felt by the person filling the role, rather than the role itself. I wrote about this difference in my article, "This Time It's Personal." Basically, even though one's performance in their role may be impacted by a compensation concern, it's still a tension felt by the person (and not the role), because the formal expectations of the role "Trainer" haven't changed.  

So, those objections aren't valid as a part of the governance integration process, however of course, they may be valid tensions to process. My recommendation is instead of proposing the policy, create a role like "Compensation Captain," and give it a domain like "Compensation for Trainers" and an accountability like "Designing and enacting a fair compensation process for Trainers." That way there is one clear decision-maker, who can then assume will energize that role to the best of their judgment (but likely to include data gathering from the impacted Trainers).

And I would highly, highly discourage this, "I think we will revisit this in an extraordinary governance meeting as you suggest and will encourage the next proposer to come with a solid proposal ahead of time for people to respond to." As reasonable as that seems, it actually makes things worse and creates what I call the "objection death spiral." Objections shouldn't be avoided. They aren't the problem. And a "bad" proposal that prompts objections isn't the problem either. The problem, in this case, is that you're trying to integrate lots of invalid objections. Remove them and use the process as normal. 

Sam Burnett
12/21/2017

[@mention:455886150941203371]

Thansk Chris--your article is very clear and helpful.  I think that our job is to revisit this in a meeting and as you suggest, come ready to make a distinction between role and soul probe for the validity of the objections.