In a self-managed company, everyone is a decision-maker. You need an effective process that enables group input while empowering individuals to act – and effective tools for running it.
The Advice Process in one sentence:
Every person can make a decision, as long as they seek advice from those who will be meaningfully affected and people with relevant expertise.
The term “Advice Process” has been widely popularized by the book Reinventing Organizations, which describes self-organized companies as “Teal”. It’s also used by organizations that practice Holacracy or Sociocracy.
In Teal organizations decision-making is highly distributed. Front-line individuals or teams have the opportunity to make decisions that affect their work. While these decisions may not need to be validated by a hierarchy or consensus, it is expected that experts, and those affected, should be involved. – Reinventing Organizations Wiki
The Advice Process is a way to recognize that while every person is empowered, no one has all the answers. At the same time, it enables organizational velocity, because you don’t wait around to get everyone on the same page before taking action. You take advice into account, and then you make a decision and move forward.
Take out the pain by going online
In practice, involving “everyone affected” and those with “relevant expertise” can be kind of a pain. Do you schedule meetings? Chase after people? What if you think you asked everyone affected, but you miss someone? What if you don’t know who the experts on the topic are?
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. – Reinventing Organizations Wiki
Getting advice online lets people self-select which issues affect them. People can have input wherever, whenever – no need to schedule meetings. And there’s the added benefit of creating a documented record of decisions, so people who weren’t involved can be informed, and decision outcomes can be referenced later.
The advice process on Loomio
1. Start a discussion to frame the topic and gather input.
By posting a Loomio thread, the decision-maker notifies everyone that the topic has been opened and that they plan to make a decision. Those who are affected can add information and perspectives as comments. If someone is not affected by the issue, they can simply not participate.
2. Host a proposal so everyone can voice their position.
The decision-maker puts forward a course of action. The proposal has a clear deadline, so everyone knows the timeframe. A summary of all the advice is automatically produced as people participate. You can easily see what everyone thinks, and why.
3. The decision-maker specifies the outcome.
When the proposal closes, the decision-maker considers the advice given. They then states the outcome, and everyone is notified. The outcome can follow the advice or diverge from it, but in either case the decision is clearly documented.
Self-managed organizations need simple processes and tools that just work. The Advice Process balances individual empowerment with group input, and running it online saves time and increases clarity.
See the Hanno company playbook for an example of how a collective of 10 designers use the Advice Process on Loomio.