According to Dr. Tim Hartnett, writing in Consensus Decision Making, the goals of consensus are:
“Better Decisions: Through including the input of all stakeholders, the resulting proposals can best address all potential concerns.
“Better Implementation: A process that includes and respects all parties, and generates as much agreement as possible sets the stage for greater cooperation in implementing the resulting decisions.
“Better Group Relationships: A cooperative, collaborative group atmosphere fosters greater group cohesion and interpersonal connection.”¹
Despite its benefits, consensus building is not easy. It takes time, effort, and commitment to make the process work.
Get Everyone on the Same Page
The first step is getting everyone to agree to the consensus process.
- State the goal of achieving full agreement by everyone.
- Explain that consensus can only be gained when everyone feels comfortable speaking.
- Encourage people to share their opinions and ideas and make suggestions and comments without judgement or censure.
- Everyone is expected to keep an open mind.
- Do not allow overt manipulation, adversarial or aggressive conduct, and power plays.
Steps in Consensus Decision-Making
- Set a meeting time and location that is convenient and comfortable for everyone.
- Explain the process and goals.
- Go around the room and let everyone share their ideas and opinions. Capture them where everyone can see them.
- Once everyone has had a voice, allow for discussion and feedback.
- Brainstorm and vet alternatives and address concerns.
- Encourage quieter people to participate.
- Periodically test for consensus. On a jury, the foreperson may poll the jurors several times to discover where the majority opinion lies.
Focus the Group on a Decision
After sufficient discussion and when it seems as if the majority is in agreement, move the focus to a final decision.
- Explain that consenting to a decision may not mean that it is a first choice for everyone.
- Some people may have reservations.
- The objective is to work together to reach a successful solution.
If you gain full consensus, the decision can be implemented. Sometimes, however, that isn’t possible.
Even though some people may not support the proposed, final decision, ask if it is something that they can live with. Gain their agreement to accept the decision while not endorsing it.
Consensus is one method of making decisions. Check out these articles for more options:
- 6 Decision-Making Techniques All Product Managers Should Know by @Joanna Beltowska
- Have You Hit a Group Decision Wall by Dorit Perry