Why asynchronous consent decisions in the first place?

I hope @msiep is fine with being quoted from yesterday’s meeting notes:

Async decisions are hard for me, especially since they’re not timeboxed — I don’t know how long it will take to engage and understand a topic.
This is hard for me during the week.
[…]
Overall I am skeptical of async decisions, requires frequent availability.

I think it’s really good to bring this up – I too am a little skeptical that async decisions are a good direction in general. They are good when doing important decisions together with the community, but I feel they are too inefficient to be used for most of what we’re doing currently.

I recently wrote this driver statement to summarize (what I think is) our original motivation for having this process:

We don’t want to expect every team member to show up at the weekly meetings. Thus we need to check for and integrate objections in a way that enables people to contribute asynchronously.

I think either a) we don’t have consent to this driver or b) we’re going too far in responding to it.

  • Which objections were raised so far by team members who weren’t at meetings?
  • Were they able to contribute because of the consent decision process?
  • Do we really need to integrate objections outside of meetings?
  • Do we really need to make decisions on the forum? Why not in the meetings, with feedback/objections/amendments from the forum?

I sometimes feel like I’m the reason we have this process at all, because I’m the only one who uses it to contribute, but doesn’t show up at meetings. (Not sure if this is true.) However, I appreciate it when progress is made at the meetings, even though I’m not there – it’s more enjoyable to see progress than to see myself blocking progress :).

I think it would be very possible to have a process where decisions are made at the meetings (via the Consent Decision Making S3 pattern), while inviting feedback/objections/amendments from the forum.
Maybe such a hybrid process could be done by posting the driver and proposal on the forum before the meeting, then doing a decision in the meeting and considering anything that was raised on the forum. If there’s more activity on the forum – possibly in response to what happened in the meeting, via the meeting notes –, it can be handled at the next meeting. (Personally, I think I could enjoy such a process.)

WDYT? (Meta: Pinging @wolftune, but unsure whom to ping otherwise, because some people said it took them too much time to even read the discussions regarding the async consent decision process – I would like to ping the entire team, but that feels rude to me. Feel free to ping/invite anyone.)

(Meta: I’m only present on saturdays currently.)

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I like this direction a lot. I agree that we need to be especially cautious about the burden of process, particularly with all volunteers.

I like this, but I think the point here is about having some extra check for anyone absent from a meeting. So maybe:

Meetings do not get always get full attendance, but we want consensus as an ideal in decisions. If we make it as easy as possible for those who miss a meeting to weigh in on decisions asynchronously, that will enable the widest consensus and best decisions.

So, to address this core tension, I imagine we would better highlight decisions within meetings. We’d also want a way to mention them when made by an impromptu discussion outside of weekly meetings. We might want a default period (say a week) before decisions become fully accepted. We ping all relevant roles so they can note that a decision has been made and can then express any concerns or objections.

So, this acts as a chance for the broader community and anyone missing a meeting to have a veto period. But we could still prioritize doing decisions in meetings mostly.

Ideally, we should minimize decisions that need all team and more. Most decisions should be made within a single role (usually one person maybe seeking advice if needed) and smaller circles. It’s too costly to allow too much be all-team top-level.

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Following on this bit, we also noted the potential need to allow people to say “I don’t have time to express my objection but I’m not consenting”

There could be several ways to deal with such a situation, but at the very least we want to be clear about this. We don’t want to mistake that situation for one of either consenting or of being entirely absent / not reading at all.

At Proposal: drop burdensome forum-based consent process I’m proposing we drop the formal process for now. We can focus in the future on getting clearer about tensions/drivers before we add formal process. There may be some need still, but if so, we should notice tensions. It’s not currently clear what’s optimal.

I did exactly this for a college club I ran for 5 years. 90% of people weighed in immediately when the decision was proposed - during the meeting, in real time. Then, the week following was the chance for anyone to change their mind, discuss further, and for absentees to vote as well - right up until the start of the next meeting, where the decision is officially closed and takes effect immediately.

One might assume this places extra async-communication burden on the absentees, relative to the meeting attendees, and would be bad if there’s hardly ever any engagement between meetings. But actually, no! Because a decision is always mentioned in at least 2 meetings (It’s brought up quickly on the closing day), people who missed the last meeting have a chance to jump in before it closes. No forum/async participation is required!

In the (less common) cases where someone misses multiple weekly meetings in a row, then yeah, they’ll have to weigh in online, or forfeit their vote. But when you’re missing at least half a month of stuff, that should be understandable :slight_smile:

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