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By Clay Parker Jones profile image Clay Parker Jones
8 min read


Instead of having The Boss Decide™, use this facilitation method to make the wisest decision possible with the minimum amount of preparation and politics.

Why use this?

Elections are an alternative to normal, usually tacit methods for deciding who should do the work. Note that I’m emphasizing should: the idea is not to get to who wants to do the work, or who has to do the work, but rather the best possible person to do the work right now.

Run elections this way, because most alternatives encourage gaming, bias, and politics. This is also known as business as usual.

What are Elections?

It is a structured group facilitation method for gathering emergent wisdom from the group with the minimum amount of preparation. That wisdom is used by the facilitator to recommend who gets to fill the role or job. For small, well-practiced groups, it can take as little as 15 minutes per role to be elected. For larger groups, budget at least an hour per election.

What can Elections replace?

The Boss Chooses By Themselves™ can work well with great, informed, openminded bosses. Most of the structured steps below are the ones that good managers undertake anyway – gathering data, canvassing, making their inputs and ultimate decision clear. This is a fragile system, though – it requires substantial training and maintenance.

Direct voting and instant runoff voting (IRV) encourage folks to campaign outside of the process. It seems fairer to do it this way, but it doesn't end up any different from how it works “normally,” where folks spend weeks, months, years, careers! working toward a given position. It just makes it public, and reduces the wisdom of the group to a) what individuals say their capabilities are and b) the tally-able votes of individuals. If you’re trying to level the playing field and make the wisest decision, voting methods aren’t the way forward. IRV adds a bit more data – ranked preference – but it also means educating people on the system and finding a digital method to tabulate the votes...and eventually dealing with a culture of gaming the ranked voting system. The juice isn't worth the squeeze.

Committee Selection can yield similarly wise results to the method outlined below, but doesn't do much to resolve politics and gaming. Also – who chooses the committee? What method do they use? Good committees make this transparent, but again – this is fragile and subject to change.

Instead, why not commit as a group to follow a process?

Use Elections for any important decision. It doesn't need to be exclusive to electing humans to fill roles – it can also be used to pick between strategic or tactical options – all you need is a clear problem statement, to replace the "role to be filled" and a set of concise options for how to move forward, to replace the "candidates."



By Clay Parker Jones profile image Clay Parker Jones
Updated on
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