You are invited to experience Five to Fold (5toFold) – a collaborative decision-making process for purpose-centred organizations and groups. It is an effective and powerful way to make both day-to-day and major, complex decisions. 5toFold fosters the development of trust and individual responsibility. It invites alignment with both individual and organizational purpose as each decision is made.
5toFold invites people to engage fully in decision-making. The process provides in-depth information to the organization as a whole about the matter being decided on. It improves the implementation of the decision based by engaging people in the process. And by the organization as a whole considering and valuing both the information presented in a proposal and the perspectives of the individuals involved.
Organizations benefit when they make a choice about their decision-making process and use it consistently. An organization committed to collaborative ways of working also needs collaborative ways of making decisions. The 5toFold process is available for the purpose of making the best decisions for a team or organization by the members of that team or organization and based on collective wisdom. You are invited to consider the benefits of collective, collaborative decision-making.
Effective Decision-Making in a Complex Environment
Decision-making takes place within a complex operating system filled with possibilities, other decisions, givens (non-negotiable boundaries), a myriad of choices and their implications, freedom to make choices, and to make decisions. One person making a decision is limited by their perception of the facts available to them, their competency in working from their multiple intelligences, and the degree of moving beyond perceived limitations to expansive possibilities.
The opportunity to make decisions beyond the perceptual scope of one person, is to gather a group of people who are invested in the outcomes of the decision, and to make use of a decision-making process that enables all of the individuals to be heard and understood thus bringing individual perspectives into the awareness of all who are gathered. This leads to collective wisdom being available to make the best decision. Collective wisdom contains a more expansive perspective of possibilities, choices and their implications. The dynamics change when the collective collaborates to make the decision.
Collaborative Decision-Making Aligns with Purpose-Centred Organizational Cultures
There is an opportunity in purpose-centred organizations to get the decision-making process into alignment with the culture of the organization and to reap the many benefits of doing so. This decision-making process creates alignment between the decision-making and:
- organizational cultures committed to diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging;
- intra-organizational collaboration;
- inter-organizational collaboration;
- improving employee engagement, retention, responsibility and accountability
This alignment between decision-making and culture supports the life-nourishing environment needed for a purpose-centred organization to thrive.
Why Use this Approach?
Collaborative decision-making using 5toFold values every voice. It gauges both the level of agreement that each person has for the proposal as well as their commitment to leading in its implementation. A Fold by any individual prevents a proposal from becoming a decision. It is not a failure of the process, but one of its possible outcomes. By embracing a Fold, the opportunity is created for the group to create solutions to key unresolved issues before implementing a decision. Once resolved, a new proposal can quickly be put forth for a new decision. In this way, 5toFold accesses individual wisdom while honoring the unity of the whole.
Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Implementation
The people who will be responsible for implementing the decision, and those responsible for going along with the decision in their organization are engaged throughout the process, having their feedback listened to and considered. In being part of the decision-making process, there is a genuine feeling of being involved.
The 5toFold decision-making process involves a broad spectrum of stakeholders, those who will be affected by the decision and who are responsible for implementing it. The people involved have an opportunity to develop their personal understanding of what is being proposed. They have an opportunity to have their questions answered, their concerns and their support considered by all who will vote. They have the opportunity to make suggestions for improving the proposal before it goes to a vote. The process is transparent. It is suitable for onsite, online, and hybrid environments.
Using this approach to decision-making works well with both day-to-day decisions and making decisions about complex opportunities and challenges.
Nourishing a Culture of Leadership
5toFold fosters the development of trust and individual responsibility. People have a need to be heard and understood. Feeling heard and understood leads to a person feeling trusted. When a person feels trusted, the development of trust in others strengthens. When the people who implement the decision, or are affected by the implementation of the decision, are invited to be engaged in the process of decision-making, the engagement of the people fosters individual and collective responsibility. All of this increases the capacity for collaboration, for a supportive environment for belonging, and for a life nourishing culture of leadership.
5toFold, in its full form, is suitable when there is a thoughtful proposal being put forward and when the people who need to be in the decision-making process are invited. It is thus not suitable for spur-of-the-moment types of decisions with a quick suggestion they want to put to a vote. The latter does not have sufficient thoughtfulness of the decision nor its implications. It also does not have consideration of whether the people who need to be present have been invited. For those with experience using 5toFold, adaptations can be made for a “quickie” version that is suitable for more spontaneous decisions.
Who Needs to be Involved
Ideally, everyone affected by the decision and those responsible for implementing it are involved. Decisions can also be made by the sponsors of the proposal to invite a broad spectrum of stakeholders and as many as possible of those who are responsible for implementing it. In organizations, it is helpful to have a policy that outlines who should be involved for different kinds of decisions.
Whoever is involved, a pre-requisite for attendance in the decision-making is to have a clear understanding of the purpose of the organization, or team, for whom the decision-making is taking place.
If the decision being considered is inter-organizational, ideally people from all of the organizations involved are invited. However, due to the large number of people that might be affected by the decision, it may not be possible to include them all. If there are too many people, a way to have representation from all of the stakeholders in the system is to identify every organization in the collaboration and have each invite representatives of that organization. Representatives are chosen based on a maximum mixture of the stakeholder groups within that organization. In other words, people are invited as representatives from every team in the organization and from every level in the organization if it is a hierarchical organization.
If the decision being considered is intra-organizational, ideally people from all areas of the organization that are affected by the decision are invited. Again, due to the large number of people that might be affected by the decision, it may not be possible to include them all. If this is so, a way to have a maximum mixture of people from throughout the organization is ideal. In other words, representatives from every team that is affected by the decision are invited.
How Does it Work?
Proposal and Preparations
A proposal is developed. Ideally, the organization has a format that guides proposal development in order for it to be considered. As part of the proposal development, the people involved in developing the proposal include a segment on who they identify as the people having a stake in the outcomes of the decision. This helps identify who should be invited to the decision-making process.
Decision-making is done in real-time (no asynchronous voting) and an invitation is extended for either an onsite or online meeting for the purpose of decision-making using the Five to Fold process. In some organizations, a regularly scheduled decision-making meeting is scheduled with the intention of processing more than one proposal through decision-making.
The meeting should be scheduled for an appropriate amount of time depending on the complexity of the decision to be made and the number of people participating. It is important that enough time be allocated for the process to be completed in 1 meeting.
The people who are invited to consider the proposal sit in a circle. If the meeting is online, a whiteboard is used for marking where in the circle the person has chosen to sit. A trained Five to Fold facilitator leads the process.
Presentation of the Proposal: The proposal is presented visually and auditorily to benefit different learning styles. Effort is made to give everyone their best conditions to learn what is being proposed.
Clarifying Questions: Each person in the circle has the opportunity to ask their clarifying questions regarding the proposal. No interruptions, comments or opinions are allowed, only clarifying questions. The process involves each person in turn, going around the circle, the opportunity to ask their clarifying questions. During the round, no answers are given. Those who wrote the proposal keep careful track of the clarifying questions, answering them when all of the clarifying questions have been asked. The sponsor of the proposal has an opportunity to make adjustments to their proposal before moving to the next step.
Sharing Perspectives: The facilitator engages people in a second round of speaking, allowing the opportunity for people to share their perspectives on what is being proposed. Again, no interruptions are allowed, so that whoever is speaking has the best conditions to be heard and understood by the whole group of people involved. The sponsor of the proposal has an opportunity to make adjustments to their proposal before moving to the next step.
Voting and Recording Results: Only after this careful understanding and consideration is a vote called for. The vote allows for the level of agreement and the level of commitment that each participant has for the proposal. Both the level of agreement and the level of commitment are important information for all who are involved. They are important information for the organization as a whole in an intra-organizational decision and the collaboration of organizations in an inter-organizational decision.
The votes are expressed when the facilitator asks for the vote, with all participants putting up a hand with their vote simultaneously, expressed by the number of fingers held up:
- Five means you strongly support the proposal and intend to have a leadership role in its implementation.
- Four means you strongly support the proposal but do not intend to have a leadership role in its implementation.
- Three means solid support for the proposal without significant concerns.
- Two means you support the proposal, but have some concerns that you are willing to share with the community.
- One means that you have major concerns about the proposal and believe that it is out of harmony with the purpose of the group, but you do not block the proposal. You commit not to subvert the proposal and to share your concerns openly with the group.
- Fold (hand closed in a fist over your heart) means that you choose to block the proposal because you believe strongly that, if implemented, the proposal will conflict with the purpose of the group at this time. You commit to sharing your concerns openly with the group.
The results of the vote are recorded, including noting who voted with what number. The sponsors of the proposal will engage with those who voted with a 4 or 5 as they begin the implementation. Anyone who voted with a 1 or a 2 is asked to share their concerns with the community. These concerns are also recorded so that they can be considered during implementation.
A Fold by any individual prevents a proposal from going forward in the form it is currently written. It is not a failure of the process, but one of its helpful and possible outcomes. A Fold does not need to be an end unless those who developed the proposal are not willing or able to work out revisions to the proposal.
When there is a fold, work on revisions usually takes place to create a refined proposal, even quite quickly in the decision-making meeting. Those writing the proposal go off for several minutes to make changes. This causes a pause, a good time to take a break, and then the process starts again with the revised proposal. The opportunity of the rewrite and the pause is for solutions to be created to key unresolved issues before implementing a decision. This is superior to making a decision and then having unresolved issues rearing their heads during implementation. It is beneficial in avoiding unnecessary conflict over unresolved issues that have no appropriate early resolution.
Celebration: Whatever the result of the vote is, a decision has been made and is celebrated before the end of the process. The collective wisdom of the circle has been expressed, giving further clarity to how the purpose of the project or organization is being fulfilled.
5toFold accesses individual wisdom while honoring the unity of the whole. It can be adapted for a variety of circumstances, and especially in organizations that use 5toFold frequently, some “quickie versions” can be used for minor proposals that arise during meetings.