Flat corporate organizations are in fashion these days. The theory is that the best decisions are made by consensus, and that it’s important to strive towards building that consensus by giving everyone, independent of their seniority, the right to voice their opinion.
I support giving everyone the right to voice their opinion. Often the most junior team members have the most knowledge about an issue, so it’s important to draw on this knowledge during the decision-making process.
I also support decision making by consensus when this consensus can be achieved.
However, in many cases, it isn’t possible to reach consensus. Even after an issue is debated at length, there remain different perspectives on the right course of action.
When this happens, there needs to be a final decision maker. The puck needs to stop somewhere. In other words, when decision making by consensus doesn’t produce an outcome, the organization benefits from having a final decision maker decide on and state what will be done.
The alternative is that everyone leaves with their own idea of what needs to be done, the organization heads in multiple often opposing directions, and there is no accountability for the outcomes of these actions. It’s both inefficient and doesn’t produce results.
When consensus can’t be formed, it’s worth trading away a pleasant sounding but inefficient flat organization for an efficient and results producing final decision maker.