Making Decisions by Consensus Takes Longer—And Lasts Longer
John Mackey opened a small health food store in Austin in 1978, which in 1980 merged with another local natural foods store to form the foundation on which Whole Foods Market was born. Mackey has led Whole Foods Market since the beginning through mergers and internal development to create a FORTUNE 500 company. Whole Foods is now one of the top 12 supermarket companies in America and the world's largest natural foods retail chain.
Mackey says his business philosophy is to act with care and responsibility toward all of the various stakeholder groups of the company and to operate Whole Foods Market with social and environmental responsibility. He was named 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.
Justin Fox: So, John, this emphasis on consensus. Has that been there from the very beginning or has that evolved over the years?
John Mackey: It has evolved over the years. I think I found that when you make decisions by consensus and you let all the disagreements get expressed that you’re going to make better decisions. That people are equals and they are expressing their opinions that if they disagree you have to dive deeper into what the basis for that disagreement is and so that you can persuade people that for the good of the group the decision can be... we’ll come to some type of a consensus or a compromise or agreement that everybody can get solidly behind. Because if you don’t do that, and people in the leadership group don’t have consensus, then they’re secretly there is a natural human tendency to kind of want the decision, the person who lost, who didn’t get their way in a sense to be proven right. It’s like: "See, I told you that wasn’t going to work. I told you so." And they won’t totally enlist in the decision and that ends up I think creating divisiveness, so I think consensus is very important.
Justin Fox: Does it take really long sometimes to get to it?
John Mackey: It can. It can, but again, if you’re under urgency then you’ll… there is a greater intensity to get to the consensus quicker, but sometimes decisions get talked about for weeks or months. They don’t all have to be made on the spur of the moment or quickly. Generally if you make important decisions that really are going to impact the business it’s good to talk that over. And of course we had a wider circle of what we call our Whole Foods Market Leadership Network, WFLN, that consists of the top 30 executives in the company. And we don’t seek consensus, it’s virtually impossible to get consensus with 30 people, but if there is strong factions in the group when we make larger decisions we definitely want to try to reach decisions that are not like a 16 to 14 type of decision. You want to have decisions that allow the great majority of people to agree with the decision and buy into it. It’s a little bit like Japanese management decision-making, which, they spend a lot more time trying to develop consensus in their decision group. That takes longer, but the virtue of it is while it takes longer to make the decision once you begin the implement it, it goes a lot faster because there isn’t sort of resistance and sabotage that works its way through the organization, so we found that is at least at Whole Foods, a better way to operate.
Justin Fox: And is there any attempt to replicate that style at the store level, at the regional level as well?
John Mackey: We lead by example in that way, so I do think there is. While it’s not company policy, I do think our culture encourages that type of decision-making, although it’s not a requirement.
When disagreements get expressed, better decisions get made. If you have to dive deeper into the basis for disagreement, you're forced to make your case more persuasive.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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