What kind of decision? Command & control, consultative or consensus?

Charles Fishman has a piece in Fast Company about Whole Foods and the fella that runs it, John Mackey. So I'm breezing along, enjoying the read until I get to the veerry end, where Charles buries the following pearl.

  • Command-and-control decisions
  • These are the ones that Mackey makes himself — or the “boss” in a particular setting makes. They happen when timing doesn't permit wide consultation, or when Mackey thinks the stakes are so high that he feels that he has to decide. “I almost never make a command-and-control decision,” he says.

  • Consultative decisions
  • These are decisions that Mackey, the senior leadership team, or the appropriate group of people make — but only after wide conversation and consultation with those involved. It's the most common form of decision making at Whole Foods. “I make a ton of decisions where I consult with people I trust, with the people involved,” Mackey says.

  • Consensus decisions
  • These occur when the team involved strives for general agreement. Each team at each store meets monthly to provide a forum for this kind of decision making; among the decisions reached by consensus are hiring decisions: Every new employee must be voted onto the staff after a tryout; it takes a two-thirds yes vote from the team to stay. Even Mackey's National Leadership Team of 24 people routinely votes on decisions. “I don't overrule the National Leadership Team,” says Mackey. “I've done it maybe once or twice in all these years.”

    “I will make a decision about what kind of decision something is,” says Mackey. The most common decisions, he says, are also his favorites: “decisions that are not my decision.”

    Tarnation! That's a darn fine insight…