Consensus That Works

Definitions of consensus that do not work include

  • “We all agree.” Trying to get everyone to agree on the best solution takes too long and leads to watered-down, lowest-common-denominator solutions.
  • “We all make pleasant noises that sound like we’re agreeing even though one or more of us will torpedo or simply ignore this idea as soon as we leave this meeting.”
  • “We all nod our heads because this is what the boss wants.” No organization ever succeeds on mere compliance.

A definition of consensus that works is

All members of the group acknowledge that they each have had their say. Not everyone agrees the chosen direction in the best one. Everyone understands and will support the decision.

Next time you need to make an important decision, tell your team that the goal is “everyone understands and will support the decision.” Provide just enough facilitation and then watch them rock that decision.


In your corner,


PS: Rocking a decision includes making it and implementing it.

2 thoughts on “Consensus That Works

  1. My colleagues and I learned a useful definition of consensus from a faciliation course. DOES NOT MEAN – this is the best proposal relative to your personal wishes. DOES NOT MEAN – this is your first choice. DOES MEAN – you agree that this represents the group’s soundest deliberation at this time. DOES MEAN – this proposal meets the guidelines/constraints established. DOES MEAN – you can live with it and support it. I can’t tell you the number of times that last point has broken a log jam!

    1. Hi Diane,

      Oh! I like that definition, too. I like the part that says this decision is one that you agree is the best possible for the team at this time.


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