Companies of a certain size need some kind of corporate governance; the Advice Process is ours. It’s an unusual way to approach governance – because it empowers any EE employee to make meaningful decisions, rather than wait to be told what to do (as with a traditional top-down or consensus-driven arrangement).
Instead of having to refer ‘up’ all the time when faced with decisions, as its name suggests the Advice Process simply requires people to ask for advice from appropriate colleagues. This should be a tremendously empowering thing for all of us (especially when we consider that the common alternative is the traditional top-down model, with investment committees, long proposals and 100 hoops to jump through whenever you want to try and use your initiative).
The Advice Process means that power isn’t held in the hands of an elite few at Equal Experts; decision-making is spread across the organisation. But distributing power across organisations is hard, so it’s up to everyone in EE to make this work. We don’t want to end up as just another consultancy!
With the Advice Process, before a person can make a decision they must seek advice from affected parties and people with expertise on the matter.
To be clear, it’s not about gaining consensus – rather, it creates a framework which allows people to seek advice, then own and execute on decisions for which they are accountable and responsible for the outcome.
Currently, the AP applies to our UK employees and employees of any other Business Unit (BU) that chooses to adopt it. In time, we believe it is important to develop this kind of decision making across EE. It fits with our culture and values. It provides autonomy and treats people like grown-ups. And it enables us to keep a mostly flat hierarchy.
To fulfill its purpose, the Advice Process needs to achieve the following:
Collaboration - the decision maker needs to actively listen to other people (both knowledgeable and affected people) to improve his or her decision. Those people consulted have to actively help the decision maker to make a better decision.
Accountability - the decision maker needs to be held accountable for their decision by the rest of the organisation.
Transparency - the AP should bring an increased level of transparency to decision-making across the organisation
Feedback and Learning - we need to measure the outcome of decisions made via the AP, and learn from our decisions (both as individuals, and as an organisation).
“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.”
"It is a misunderstanding that self-management decisions are made by getting everyone to agree, or even involving everyone in the decision. The advice seeker must take all relevant advice into consideration, but can still make the decision. "