Responsive Decision Making


RDM is a structured way to propose an idea, obtain feedback, and make a conclusive decision. Focusing on progress, with the help of the facilitator, allows us to reach consent quickly and accelerate our work.


Your team needs to determine a balance between the amount of RDM meetings you want to conduct, and the amount of time you are willing to let a proposal exist without edits. Traditionally, we suggest you meet once a month.


PHASE 1: Gather Feedback

The first phase is all about gathering group feedback on an idea or proposal in a structure manner that ensures that every voice is heard and given equal consideration.

A facilitator (who is not the same person as the proposer) leads the group through the process.

Round 1: Propose

The person with the proposal describes an issue that they have identified and proposes a change or a course of action. There is no discussion during this round.

Round 2: Clarify

One at a time, participants ask the proposer questions to clarify their understanding of the proposal. If you do not have a question, do not hesitate to say “no questions.” The person making the proposal is the only one allowed to answer.

Pro-Tip Approach this like a scientist: what information do I need in order to fully understand what the proposal is trying to do? Avoid disguising reactions as a question by using phrases like, “have you considered…?”

Round 3: React

One at a time, participants can voice support, share opinions, and suggest changes. The proposer does not respond. No discussion allowed.

After reactions, the proposer may decide to end RDM for this proposal. He or she may want to revise the proposal based on the feedback. In that case, the proposal can be withdrawn and resumed at a later date.

Pro-tip: The above process can be used any time feedback is needed, not just when decisions need to be made.

PHASE 2: Decide

The second phase is about consenting to a ‘safe to try' version of the proposal. The proposer can amend the proposal as he sees fit. Then the group is tasked not with trying to make it better, but with finding a way to make it safe enough to consent to.

Round 4: Amend

After listening to the group’s reaction, the proposer now has the option to amend, clarify, or remove the proposal from the table. Only the proposer may speak during this round.

Round 5: Object

Participants share any reason why it is not safe for them to consent to the proposal. Objections are processed one at a time. The facilitator works with the proposer and objector to determine if the objection is valid. If the objection is valid, the proposal is rejected.

Round 6: Decide!

When the last objection has been integrated, the group consents to move forward with the proposal.

Pro-Tip: When using this process, make sure that you have a collaborative document – a flipchart or a Google Doc on a large screen – where you write down the specific proposal so everyone can react, so you are 100% explicit about what you’re committing to.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does a good proposal look like?

A: A good proposal identifies a problem observed by one or more people on the team and includes a suggested way to address that issue through a course of action.

For example, let’s imagine that you work for a company that has a weekly two hour meeting without any breaks. One or more people on the team observe that after an hour, many people are distracted because they need to go to the bathroom or refill their coffee. In RDM, someone could raise this issue and then create a proposal that states that after one hour, the leader of the meeting asks the group if anyone needs to take a five minute break.

Q: What is 'Safe to Try?' What is a valid objection?

A: Safe to try means that the proposed change will not cause immediate harm to the business. Participants can only object to the proposal if they believe it is not safe to try.. The objector can’t simply disagree with the adea or have a better proposal. It’s up to the facilitator to reduce the amount of debate and irrelevant discussion. Valid objections are concerns that suggest a proposal is not ‘safe to try.’

Valid objections

  • Have data to supports that the proposition is harmful
  • Have proof that the proposition causes immediate danger - not an anticipation of harm
  • Objection directly affects your role and domain