Almost all Teal organizations use, in one form or another, what an early practitioner (AES) called the “advice process.”
It comes in many forms, but the essence is consistent: any person can make any decision after seeking advice from 1) everyone who will be meaningfully affected, and 2) people with expertise in the matter.
Advice received must be taken into consideration. The point is not to create a watered-down compromise that accommodates everybody’s wishes. It is about accessing collective wisdom in pursuit of a sound decision. With all the advice and perspectives the decision maker has received, they choose what they believe to be the best course of action.
Advice is simply advice. No colleague, whatever their importance, can tell a decision-maker what to decide. Usually, the decision-maker is the person who first noticed the issue, or the person most affected by it.
In practice, this process proves remarkably effective. It allows anybody to seize the initiative. Power is no longer a zero-sum game. Everyone is powerful via the advice process.
It’s not consensus.Decision Making – Reinventing Organizations Wiki
All successful non-hierarchical organisations replace management hierarchies with a simple advice process (Laloux 2014) that establishes the vital feedback loops that enable the organisation to learn and adapt in a timely manner, even in a highly dynamic context.The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless patterns of human limitations
The advice process allows self-management to flourish. Dennis Bakke, who introduced the practice at AES (and who wrote two books about it), highlights some important benefits: creating community, humility, learning, better decisions, and fun.Decision Making – Reinventing Organizations Wiki
- Community: it draws people, whose advice is sought into the question at hand. They learn about the issue. The sharing of information reinforces the feeling of community. The person whose advice is sought feels honored and needed.
- Humility: asking for advice is an act of humility, which is one of the most important characteristics of a fun workplace. The act alone says, “I need you“. The decision maker and the adviser are pushed into a closer relationship. This makes it nearly impossible for the decision-maker to ignore the advice.
- Learning: making decisions is on-the-job education. Advice comes from people who have an understanding of the situation and care about the outcome. No other form of education or training can match this real-time experience.
- Better decisions: chances of reaching the best decision are greater than under conventional top-down approaches. The decision maker has the advantage of being closer to the issue and has to live with responsibility for the consequences of the decision. Advice provides diverse input, uncovering important issues and new perspectives.
- Fun: the process is just plain fun for the decision-maker, because it mirrors the joy found in playing team sports. The advice process stimulates initiative and creativity, which are enhanced by the wisdom from knowledgeable people elsewhere in the organization.
Steps in the advice process
There are a number of steps in the advice process:
- Someone notices a problem or opportunity and takes the initiative, or alerts someone better placed to do so.
- Prior to a proposal, the decision-maker may seek input to sound out perspectives before proposing action.
- The initiator makes a proposal and seeks advice from those affected or those with expertise.
- Taking this advice into account, the decision-maker decides on an action and informs those who have given advice.
In a good company coordination and organisational learning happens via a simple advice process (one of our 8 trust-reinforcing rituals), without any need for social power structures. Before making a major decision that affects others in the organisation:
- A person has to seek advice from at least one trusted colleague with potentially relevant or complementary knowledge or expertise.
- Giving advice is optional. It is okay to admit lack of expertise. This enables the requestor to proceed on the basis of the available evidence.
- Following advice is optional. The requestor may ignore advice if she/he believes that all things considered there is a better approach or solution. Not receiving advice in a timely manner is deemed equivalent to no relevant advice being available within the organisation. This allows everyone to balance available wisdom with first hand learning and risk taking.
- The 8 prosocial design principles provide guidance for dealing with people who regularly ignore relevant advice (or consistently refuse to seek or give advice) and therefore regularly cause downstream problems for others as a result. Such situations are obvious for all involved. A persistent breakdown of collaboration either results in a significant change in behaviour once the downstream problems are recognised, or in the non-cooperative person leaving the organisation.
According to Frederic Laloux an advice process with the above characteristics is the one noteworthy commonality across all of the non-hierarchical organisations that he has researched. I can confirm that the advice process is an essential corner stone within the NeurodiVenture model.Organising for neurodivergent collaboration | Autistic Collaboration