Consensus allows each team member to have an equal influence in the decision-making process. It represents the best thinking of the team, and all team members support the outcome. Some team members may not agree with the particular decision, but every team member fully and freely supports the decision once it is made.
The five steps to reaching consensus are:
- Gather information and ideas.
- Protect individual viewpoints/promote positive intent and mutual respect.
- Base decision on objective information as much as possible.
- Blend and integrate ideas to arrive at a decision that everyone can support.
- Measure the final outcome by how well it meets the team’s (not individuals’) interests.
Guidelines for Arriving at Consensus
- Avoid using the majority rule, averages, or coin flips. These quick decisions are not representative of consensus.
- Avoid rushing to agreement before everyone has had a chance to express opinions.
- Encourage honest expression of opinions, even if they conflict with the prevailing discussion.
- Move from “either/or” choices to “and/but” options.
- Guard against groupthink.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development