Structural Archetypes for Group Organization

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Structural archetypes for group organization


"In considering the many and various organizational models and principles that have been previously used to coordinate all sorts of groups, a categorical analysis of the primary forms and structures will identify three basic and fundamental types of decision making process. For the purposes of this essay, these three primary forms of decision making will be referred to as 'the democracy', 'the meritocracy', and 'the consensus'.

The three notions of an organizing principle can be briefly described (in a characteristically simplified form) as follows:

In a democracy, a range of possible options is reviewed, discussion and persuasion (rhetoric) is followed by a vote, and the majority decision applies to the whole.

In a meritocracy, some process (it does not matter which), is used to select a focus of decision making (a single person or smaller group), which then (perhaps after listening to the considered council of others) will make a decision which is applied to the whole. It is assumed that the whole will always and implicitly trust the part to make decisions 'correctly' (whatever that notion is taken to mean for the whole group).

In consensus, all members sit in council together and discuss potential decisions together until a complete and total agreement is reached among all members (however long it takes) which then becomes the decision of the group.

Of these three basic types of organizing principle, smaller groups will generally be best organized using the method of consensus. " (

Proposed Hybridization for Small Groups

"In summary then, there are only three basic methods by which group decisions are made. Each of these methods can be used to make two different kinds of decisions, one particular to its own modality, and one to act as a check on (to moderate the effects of) each of the other two methods of decision making. Each decision making methodology has two primary responsibilities, and all three methods together account for all (six) basic aspects of group management. This overall arrangement can be restated more compactly and symmetrically as follows:

That Consensus process, which is based on the total and heartfelt agreement of all members of the group, is used to make

1) all of the important decisions about the being, nature, and intent of the group and its actions, and 2) selecting single individuals to act as a coordinating and decision making focus each particular action, and the group member who will be responsible for facilitating the next consensus decision making meeting of the group (note different people may be chosen for each role).

That Executive process, which is based only on the merit and authority of the selected focus person, is used to make decisions about

1) the implementation of a specific group external action, and

2) how to best enable the consensus decision making process during a group meeting.

That Democratic process, which is based on a spontaneous majority vote of those present in any gathering of the group, is used to make only two kinds of decisions:

1) whether to immediately suspend the currently pending executive process (i.e., to indefinitely suspend the authority of the currently acting focus person) and return directly to a consensus decision making process, and/or

2) whether to immediately suspend the currently pending consensus decision making process, with respect to a particular stalled decision. (Note; In effect, the latter aspect is a transition to a type of executive process, usually to select a focus person who will ensure that the issue is taken up at some (other) future scheduled meeting, or suspended by vote again, if the situation warrants.

It is important to let the stalled decision rest for the remainder of the current meeting, so that other issues can be discussed if needed).

Aside from its simplicity, this hybridization has numerous advantages for a small group. Consensus process is used to make all of the important decisions which affect the group as a whole. Consensus decision making serves as the foundation for all group activities and allows each of the group members to come to know one another more deeply. As such, consensus decision making allows the group as a whole to come to one mind about an issue. In sharing insights each person may more easily come to feel good about the decisions that are made. This enables the group to be whole, and acting as a whole, to be strong, and thus enabled to work in a healthy and sustainable manner. Overall, the consensus process provides the group with the ability to make high quality decisions in the places where high quality choices are most needed. By allowing for transition to executive process, the cumbersome aspects of consensus decision making are avoided. By allowing supercession by democratic process, a stuck or blocked consensus process can be prevented from halting or freezing the group, ensuring that the group as a whole will remain responsive, effective, and at peace with itself.

Executive process allows for the group to have the necessary structured organization, responsiveness, and flexibility needed to cope with the vast number of details of rapidly changing conditions associated with the external environment (and the unexpected dynamics of life). Executive process also provides the context and facilitating basis for effective consensus decision making within a group. Overall, the executive process provides the group with the ability to make rapid and numerous decisions in the situations where immediacy and decisiveness is most needed. By allowing supercession by the democratic process, the executive process can be prevented from becoming dominating, or misused, ensuring that the group remains healthy.

Democratic process ensures that neither the consensus process nor the executive process ever becomes disabling. By ensuring that there is always a method for checking or relieving problematic situations (such as halted or overly contentious group meetings and possible abuses of focus authority), these other two forms of decision making are made more sure and secure and the problems of rhetoric and loss of essence associated with democratic process are avoided.

Overall, by maintaining a good balance and mixture of these three types of decision making processes, the membership of a group should be able to integrate in a healthy manner with the strength and flexibility necessary for high quality combined works. The particular disadvantages of each type of decision making process are offset by a balanced transition to the advantages of each of the other types. In this way, the best of all possible groups can be realized."

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