The Perfect Decisionmaking Structure

Sunday June 20, 2021 — San Francisco, California

I got very high last night and I think I discovered the perfectThis is hyperbole, please don’t get on my case about it :P
Obviously what “perfect” is depends on your individual constraints.
decisionmaking structure for small groups (companies, co-ops of various sorts, etc).

First, though, let’s look at some decisionmaking systems that have problems:

Org Chart

A typical way decisions get made at companies is that people do things, and if there’s a disagreement between two people, the person on the org chart who manages both people makes the call. This has the very good property that you don’t end up in standstills, and it’s always obvious who needs to be convinced in order to make something happen. However, this requires the person at the top of the org chart to fundamentally have all the powerAnd don’t give me that shit about the CEO being accountable to the board — that’s true, but those people are just playing a completely different game, and when it comes down to it oligarchy isn’t much better than monarchy., which is in almost all cases more power than any individual should have.

Direct Democracy

Direct democracy is another common way to make decisions. It’s pretty good for small organizations, but it has a few problems:

Representative Democracy

Representative democracy fixes the first problem above, but does nothing for the second one, and also creates a bunch of other problems, including centralization of power. It’s also typically slower to respond to misuse of power than direct democracy.


Consensus decisionmaking can be good for small groups, but it suffers the obvious problem that if you can’t reach consensus, you end up at a standstill, with no clear path forward.

Given all that, let’s look at the properties that I want:

There’s a very simple system that meets these requirements: decisions are made by consensus, but if consensus can’t be reached then a random person is picked to make the decision. Here’s how I imagine this working in, for instance, a small company:

This seems like a pretty good solution for a lot of groups.

: Add "Perfect Decisionmaking Structure" entry.
: Fix typo.