Has it ever happened to you that you regretted the decision that was made? Or that you and your team decided about something and then one of you started rebelling against it…? Or you were about to take a decision and then someone questioned it and in the end no decision was made?
If you said yes to any of the above questions this book might be of interest for you: “Smart Decision-Making: Systemic Consensing for Managers” by Josef Maiwald, German psychologist and coach for entrepreneurs and managers.
Making decisions can be a quite frustrating process, especially when taking place in a large group, so knowing an effective process which includes everyone, can be a great support.
It is no longer about asserting oneself against others with one’s own ideas but developing the best possible solution together.
The core message of this book is that a decision-making process is not about defending your proposal and/or convincing others to support it, but instead including everyone in developing the solution that will suit as many people and their needs as possible.
Why this book?
I chose to read this book because I was invited to an online workshop last spring. The workshop participants consisted mostly of Polish NVC:ers and the trainer was Adelheid Schmidt from Germany. It was both a theoretical and a practical workshop and I became very engaged. Curious as I am, I wanted to know more and bought this book. It has been waiting for me on the bookshelf since last summer, and finally I took time to read it.
Another reason for reading this book is that I was asked if I could lead a workshop in consensus decision making in my old collective house Cigarrlådan (The Cigar Box) in Hökarängen, Stockholm. All decisions in the Cigarrlådan have, since the early 1990s, been made by consensus. I said yes, with the addition that I also wanted to share my thoughts connected to this book.
I have started reading this book with following expectations:
- to get concrete tools that make meetings more efficient;
- to learn a process in which the group members are more involved and take responsibility for made decisions;
- to get to know how the decisions can be more rooted in the individuals belonging to the group.
Our life – our past, present and future – is the result of past, present and upcoming decisions. All decisions that are waiting to be made are a burden and take energy and time. Every good decision is a relief – you can shift focus. Systemic Consensing (SC) is an understandable process for making transparent decisions.
Decision-making processes are often about asserting oneself and one’s ideas in opposition to others. Someone wins and someone loses. This often leads to not everyone being motivated and committed to supporting decisions that were made. SC is a decision process in which we can find common ground and reach the most acceptable solution. SC affects the entire system, the entire meeting culture, atmosphere and motivation of everyone involved.
The basic process:
- Clarification & specification of the question
- List of suggestions
- Evaluation of proposals
- Analysis of the situation
- Final decision
Among the list of proposals, the “passive solution” is mentioned as one of them. If this proposal wins, everything stays as it was so far, without change. When evaluating the various proposals, the question is asked: “Are there any objections?”. The group members evaluate the proposals based on personal resistance from 0 (no resistance) to 10 (total resistance). Other scales can also be used, such as zero, one or two hands.
The reason why resistance is requested, instead of who is in favor of the various proposals, is based on practical experience. Proposals with high resistance will not be easy to implement and are a source of conflict. The proposals with the least resistance are best accepted by all. Bringing the “passive solution” can show that it is better to make a decision (if one or more proposals have less resistance than the “passive solution”).
By listening to individuals’ resistance to various proposals, we can examine the problem. People who are listened to and taken seriously are more willing to consider other solutions. Sometimes we can clarify or reformulate the proposals, so that the resistance decreases or disappears. And sometimes we come up with new solutions.
The minority rarely accepts that the majority simply had the better solution proposal. Consensing is about the group winning.
I think it can be difficult to theoretically learn things on my own that are about group processes and the dynamics between group members. Since I participated in a short workshop this spring, I have some experience of this group process in practice. But even without this experience, I think I would really appreciate this book.
I can imagine SC as a method that really makes meetings more meaningful with a process that opens up more perspectives. The content of the book gives me inspiration to take the method into groups where I work and where I’m a part of making decisions. Another takeaway is a greater awareness of the purpose of making decisions. It’s not about convincing others and getting my proposals through. It is more about seeing what benefits the group and its members as a whole.
I recommend the book to anyone who, in any way, has influence on group processes in different contexts: at work, in associations, at home. Yes, everywhere we make joint decisions, big and small.
After reading and summarizing the content of this book, pondering and formulating this review, I feel very inspired and satisfied. I long for a world where we work together and find solutions to concrete problems. Doing this effectively leaves room for more freedom, creativity and fun in our lives.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comment what your reflections are.
Certified CNVC Trainer, Sweden
I am communication consultant and a certified CNVC trainer. I work with groups and individuals who wants to be able to communicate better and building sustainable connections in their family, with their friends, at their workplace and in the bigger community. I am offering lectures, workshops, mediation and individual training both for individuals and for organizations. Anything from shorter presentations to several days or weeks of training. Since 2010 I have offered over 100 of lectures and workshops with inspiration of NVC (Nonviolent Communication). I have attended three one year programs organised by Friare Liv (Liv Larsson and Kay Rung): the Year 1, the Year 2 and the Mediation program. I have been assistant trainer on five of Friare Livs one year programs as well as on several of their shorter workshops.