Most of the elections and meeting resolutions that I have been involved in over the past 35 years have used 50% as the acceptance threshold. Gain the support of at least half of the decision-makers and the proposal is accepted or candidate appointed. While this is an easy threshold to understand (more people support the idea or person than don't), the possibility of a large pool (sometimes close to half) of people who are opposed means that the post-decision period can be filled with angst and opposition.
I've long wondered whether a higher threshold might be appropriate, especially when voting for company directors and making major (read: strategic) decisions. In other words, big decisions need widespread support. If a director candidate or a proposal fails to gain the support of most of those with decision rights, then clearly the body is not in strong agreement. Two of the social enterprises that I have been involved with for many years work this way: one uses 66% and the other 75% as their decision threshold. Yes, sometimes it takes a little longer to get agreement, but the time-to-benefits is usually much less because people are more united. Overall, the approach has served the enterprises, and those they serve, well.
The question of decision thresholds was raised in the business press recently. Seventy per cent was mooted as a possible threshold. Might such a proposal have legs? Would directors would be more likely to think and act in the best interests of the company? Candidates and those promoting various proposals would need to work harder to gain more widespread support, that's for sure. Decision timeframes would probably blow out; director candidates and strategy proposals might need to be more populist to garner the widespread support needed to breech the threshold; and, necessary but unpopular proposals might fail to attract the required levels of support thus putting unnecessary pressure on people, resources and possibly business viability.
While these downsides might seem daunting, the idea of raising the decision threshold on major decisions (like director elections and the approval of strategy, for example) might be worth some consideration. After all, the more united a group can be, the more likely it is of achieving its goal and, therefore, realising the expected benefits. What do you think?
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.