Decision making document.


The most effective style of decision-making depends on the situation.  Small co-operatives often make major decisions (like working hours, pay rates, customer service policies, by-law changes, etc) using consensus.  Why?  Because properly facilitated consensus decisions allow everyone to express their point of view, listen to others, and come to the best decision for the group as a whole.  Consensus provides ample opportunity for respectful disagreement and when a decision is reached it’s usually the best solution and people are committed to making it happen.   Consensus decreases the chances that people will change their minds after the decision is made or feel left out of the decision and therefore unmotivated to contribute to its implementation.

For the hundreds of day-to-day operational decisions in a co-op, responsibility needs to be delegated to individuals who are accountable to the group.  Everyday routine decisions that are a part of everyone’s job (for example, returning a customer’s call, or counting the cash and balancing the till at the end of the day) do not require a group discussion, and in fact, it would be detrimental to the business and the group dynamic to waste time in a group meeting.  Most of these routine decisions will be made unilaterally by each individual.  This requires a clear definition and understanding of each person’s roles and responsibilities in the co-op, and an accountability chart will provide a useful guideline.

For decisions that are less routine, or if a new employee is just learning the job, there may be a need to consult with a supervisor or with co-workers who are affected by the decision.  Many managers use the consultative process to gather information and opinions to ensure they make the best decision.  And like consensus, consultation takes time.  It is not an appropriate method if a decision must be made quickly, or on the spot.

Many larger co-operatives use a majority voting system to make long-term policy decisions.  As in Canada’s political system, the most common understanding of majority voting is 50% plus one, but many co-ops require two-thirds or more, particularly for important decisions such as surplus distribution, bylaw changes or withdrawing a membership.  Majority voting is relatively efficient, and provides all co-op members an opportunity to vote.  However, decisions made by majority can be very divisive over time and in the end can require more time than making a decision by consensus in the first place.  Majority voting is particularly appropriate with large numbers of co-op members at Annual General Meetings and for formal occasions when motions, seconds and vote tallies are required.  However, smaller co-ops can use consensus more effectively.

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