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The advice process

(freely adopted from 'Reinventing Organizations' by Frédéric Laloux)


What this document is not:

  • A process to run Governance Meetings: As a decentralized organization, there are challenges with taking decisions in a confined time slot. The Governance Meeting should be seen as the right moment to do some stages of the advice process and take decisions if all the affected parties are present.
  • A dispute mechanism: I think we should have one, even if I hope we never have to use it.
  • A stone table with fixed rules: it is being created through advise process and it can be modified through advise process

Further notes:

  • I see this as a part of a policy architecture / holacratic constitution of very few documents that state very clear principles to facilitate self-management without adding unnecessary bureaucracy.
  • These documents would be:
  • Advice Process (this one)
  • Purpose document: (mission statement, goals doc) To refer to before starting any discussion: are we following our purpose? This can be as broad or as narrow as we want, but there's a benefit on narrowing down.
  • Dispute resolution process: (reinventing organizations process here, Lorelei to manage) to have a process to resolve issues like "has the advice process been respected?" or any dispute between Unicorns. We all want to do what's best but sometimes we need a process to force us to solve it in a specific way, a process that puts ego aside and looks for the best in us. Hence the purpose is not to punish, but to solve disputes.
  • Roles document: (link here) Once you define one's scope, it's easier and clearer who can start what and who needs to be consulted by what. Obviously there's freedom on these roles and they can be delegated to make them flexible and quick of reaction (by that I mean we shouldn't have to wait till the next roles meeting for someone to start working on sth if this sth is time-bound).
  • Finally, in order to put all of this in order: an onboarding/training document to train everyone on the process of things? Meaning, self-management is not self-evident and we all need upskilling on this :). That or we make mandatory the reading of reinventing organizations :P

Giveth is a decentralized organization based around the principles of self-management where a number of individuals decide to gather under its [the Giveth] umbrella to act together towards a purpose.

As individuals, we have different backgrounds, expertise, methodologies and mental frameworks, among other differences - and through self-management we are tapping into the potential of such different angles to solve Giveth's challenges:

Everyone is allowed to take any decision that drives us towards our purpose.

Everyone has authority to take a decision, but they will be fully accountable for deploying the practical side (or onboarding those who will have to deal with such) and for the consequences. Everyone? Yes, although the person starting the advice process is expected to have some sort of connection to the topic being decided, be it by being a Circle head, a contributor or a participating member in the Circle relevant to the decision. Accountability here means that they will be responsible for taking the steps to complete the purpose of the decision.

Important to notice that accountability doesn't mean blame in case things go wrong. If the advice process has been followed there will be an idea of the reasons why one takes an initiative and everyone will have contributed to bring the initiative to the best possible outcome (or to not start it at all). Hence, it's hard to blame the instigator for trying something if the advice process has been properly followed. It's OK to fail, as long as you do it properly!

In such a system, tensions might arise over whether a decision was taken properly or not and instead of decentralizing power it might disengage people and create frustration. Therefore, there needs to be a very clear process that one can refer to in order to check whether it has been respected or not, in order to ensure that, even if one disagrees with the proposal, it has been taken with the best intention for the organization in mind and collecting feedback and advice from all relevant parties.

Benefits (from reinventing organizations website):

  • 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.

Underlying mindsets (adapted from reinventing organizations website):

The advice process is a tool that helps decision-making via collective intelligence. Much depends on the spirit in which people approach it. When the advice process is introduced, it might be worthwhile to consider not only the mechanics but also the mindset underlying effective use.

The advice process can proceed in several ways, depending on the mindset people bring to it:

  • The initiator can approach it authoritatively ("I don't care about what others have said" or, alternatively, "I fully comply with what others - someone highly respected, or the majority - have said").
  • They can approach from a perspective of negotiation or compromise ("I'll do some of what they say so they're happy, but it will increment my frustration account by 1").
  • They can approach it co-creatively, which is the spirit of the advice process ("I will listen to others, understand the real need in what they say, and think creatively about an elegant solution").

Process:

Steps in the advice process

There are a number of steps in the advice process:

  1. Ideation:

    Someone notices a problem or opportunity and takes the initiative, or alerts someone better placed to do so.

    Self-management implies responsibility: no boss nor subordinate is going to deal with the tension for anyone as in a traditional organization. If somebody else is better placed to do something about it, this someone will either have to be persuaded to lead the initiative or thoroughly consulted afterwards.

    Channels: This is an informal phase, so chat, face to face discussions, fireside chats, internal ideas...

  2. Sounding / Meta thinking:

    Prior to a proposal, the decision-maker may seek input to sound out perspectives before proposing action. This is the stage where the idea gets tested against other people's sentiments.

    It's the moment to ask:

    • Am I generating value if I pursue this idea?
    • Is this a problem where I want to spend my time on?
    • Am I right on my assumptions and align with other people's views about the issue?
    • What are the possible options I can suggest and what are the caveats that I need to solve before I present an action?

    Channels: Also informal and optional, same informal channels as above.

  3. Advice:

    The initiator makes a proposal and seeks advice from those affected or those with expertise.

    For minor decisions, there may be no need to seek advice. For larger decisions, advice can come through various channels, including one-on-one conversations, meetings, or online communication.

    There is no specific time frame to gather advice. Again, it will depend on the scope of the decision.

    Channels: If it is a minor decision, consult via your preferred method with whomever is necessary. If it affects Giveth in general, Loomio is at the moment the platform of choice and a Loomio . Please note that Loomio shouldn't take the responsibility of consulting with the experts and directly affected people.

    IT IS NOT OK TO JUSTIFY NOT CONSULTING AN AFFECTED/EXPERT PARTY UNDER THE EXCUSE THAT THIS PERSON DID NOT CHECK THE LOOMIO PROPOSALS.

    It is your responsibility as decision maker to reach out by all means necessary, depending on the importance of the decision and the level of impact on that person, either by collecting their advice directly or redirecting them to Loomio.

  4. Decision Making:

    Taking this advice into account, the decision-maker decides on an action and informs those who have given advice.

    In the case this decision requires budget utilization, a milestone will be created and the relevant circle/s head/s will fund it.

    Channels: Loomio is at this point the preferred tool, but if it affects Giveth in general or depending on the scope it should be communicated through Riot.

Challenges

This is a preliminary list. Feel free to contact Lanski (@planski:matrix.org) for adding your thoughts:

  • One of the main differences between Giveth and other organizations using the advice process is that Giveth has no fixed list of employees, which theoretically opens the ability to take decisions to literally everyone in the world. It won't happen but here's a fictional case at the extreme: Someone reads about our open structure and starts a new advice process over an improvement, let's say to buy a particular item/service/subscription, which is secretly owned by this person, hence profiting personally from Giveth's funds. Even more extreme is the case of the same character getting approval for the use of some funds and running away with them.
    • Solution/s:
      • In order for a legitimate advice process and to ensure alignment and to start the person needs to have a minimum of 2 Reward DAO payments earned. If that's little because people can get a small payment with 15 points without actually demonstrating real commitment to Giveth's purpose, we can set a minimum of ETH, aligning more with the value of the contribution more than the times that there has been contribution.
      • This could be a unicorn point thing also, what if we implemented a reputation token that was stored in the rewardDAO sheet and once you reach a certain level you can start creating decisions ?
  • Ego: Having a proposal that one thinks is valid turned down by the people with whom one has seeked advice can hurt people's egos. Same for not having one's advice heed. Even worse, one can get too involved in someone else's advice process and push for a decision. This person should remember that if the topic was so important for him/her, she/he should have initiated the advice process herself. In any case, this person would be able to initiate another advice process to change the decision later on if it proves ineffective.
    • Solution/s:
      • Meetings should have an "ego-bell" - we need a mechanism like this also on loomio it seems … i.e. steps to take when an issue escalates. As Josh mentions, a reminder towards "artful" participation could be helpful.
      • I would assume that anyone can ring the "ego bell" so maybe during meetings we can just have a Magic Word?
  • Enforceability: In a self-managed structure with employees, not respecting the advice process is one of the very few things that can get you dismissed. But In a decentralized organization operating as a swarm where there is no such thing as an employee (although there are people who are getting rewarded regularly in a pre-established manner, we need to find an inclusive enforceability rule that works for those without such regular rewards).
    • Solutions/s:
      • I think the slippery slope is that the person making the decision is the one who decides whether it's important enough for the advice process (which is up to interpretation) so perhaps we need to pre-define what needs to be deemed worthy of the Advice Process and what doesn't?
      • One last point, we need decisions that are made through this process to be final and enforced. With at least 2 parties chosen to make sure it gets done. Otherwise nothing gets done and people feel like their time was wasted even bringing it up.

FAQ: http://www.reinventingorganizationswiki.com/Decision_Making#Frequently_asked_questions