Effective coordination requires the ability of individuals and groups to successfully collaborate. The strength of a meeting lies in the diverse input of its attendees. This diversity can also lead to problems if the group can’t come to a consensus and make decisions, large or small.
Consensus means “general agreement” and having that as a goal encourages and focuses the participants. It also creates equity and ownership in whatever decision is made.
Building consensus is often a bumpy ride. It involves:
- Investing time to make sure each participant’s voice is heard.
- Collaboration, in which each person reviews his or her position in light of other ideas expressed.
Tips for Building Consensus
These tips list the components of the meeting climate and structure that need to be in place to build consensus:
- Establish and revisit evaluative criteria.
- Give adequate time to work through the issues.
- Consider conflict inevitable on the way to consensus.
- Expect and encourage negotiation and collaboration between meeting attendees to move towards consensus.
- Emphasize fact over opinion.
- Use structured decision-making tools.
- Recognize that giving in on a point is not losing ground; gaining on an issue is not winning.
- Encourage attendees not to give in just to avoid conflict.
- Let it be known that flipping coins and voting are not viable alternatives to sharing information, debating points, providing data, and exploring other alternatives.
Success can be difficult to judge. You’ve reached consensus when meeting participants can answer, “yes” to these questions:
- Will you agree this is the next step?
- Can you live with this position?
- Are you comfortable with this course of action?
- Can you support this alternative?
Consensus building is a decision-making process that is vital to any improvement effort or other process requiring participation. True consensus, where everyone agrees with each decision, is powerful and fulfilling. When everyone truly agrees on the actions or decisions of a group, everyone will be more committed to the course of action taken, and people will be more motivated. When consensus exists, people tend to feel very positively about a group and tend to get a lot of work done.