Building consensus

When making decisions in a professional setting we often try to get majority vote, assuming that we are trying to ‘be fair’. Another approach is more top down, where a manager may dictate the outcome. None of these approaches are as effective as one that is consensus driven.

Consensus driven approach refers to getting agreement from everyone involved. This is a time consuming process, but in the end it creates an environment of empowerment. It also is by definition an inclusive process. The key thing to understand in this process is that it addresses the main concern of all parties.

Consensus driven approach requires a neutral party that can consolidated everyones concern in an approach. This neutral party could be a project manager facilitating different stakeholders in a project.  If the person formulating the consensus is viewed as being biased or partial, then consensus cannot be achieved. Voting is not done in a consensus drive approach. Decisions are made through a facilitator who states everyone’s idea such that “who can’t live with that formulation of the group’s agreement”.

We should try to seek unanimity, but settle for overwhelmingly supportive in case there is one hold out in consensus building. The facilitator should try to get the hold-out party’s concern addressed in a way that builds on the consensus that was already reached. Commitment is required from all people in consensus building as a last step.

Credit for this approach goes to Prof. Lawrence Susskind.