Consensus management means that when a decision is reached by the group, there is total commitment to it by all members. It does not necessarily mean the decision was reached easily or that there were not widely differing views shared and debated during the group's discussion. But once consensus is formally achieved, division of opinion, so far as that decision is concerned, should cease.
To reach consensus, the group must have a strong conviction to the mission, goals, and future of the organization.
- Consensus is more time consuming, but should net increased productivity, satisfaction with the direction taken and help eliminate negative feelings.
- Consensus demands both sacrifice and dedication.
- Consensus management rests upon the basic conviction that people are honest, competent, and genuinely care about the work of the organization.
What Is Consensus?
Consensus is finding a proposal acceptable enough that all members can support it. If a member cannot support a proposal, we ask them, "What could be changed so that you can support it?" It is not a majority vote. In a majority vote, those in the minority may get something they don't want at all. After a decision has been reached, all members of the group should feel that their viewpoint was heard and understood, and that they heard and understood all other viewpoints of the group. They will support it because it was arrived at in an open and fair way.
What Is Needed for Consensus?
- Active participation of all group members
- Skills in communication: listening, conflict resolution, creative thinking and open-mindedness
Adapted From: Department of Nursing, Mayo Medical Center, Education and Professional Development Section
Pre-Consensus: Setting up for a Consensus Environment
- Determine group members
- Understand the meaning of consensus
- Agree on group purpose, values, and authority
- Set standards for interpersonal behavior
- Establish written ground rules
Stages in Reaching Consensus
Stage 1. Understand the Proposal
- State the proposal
- Clarify the proposal
- State concerns
- First call for consensus
Stage 2. Resolve Concerns
- List all concerns
- Resolve concerns
- Second call for consensus
- Evaluate group purpose and values
- Third call for consensus
- Re-examine issues and concerns
- Final call for consensus
If You Cannot Reach Consensus
Stage 3. Closing Options
- Contract for more time
- Presenter withdraws proposal
- Concerned members withdraw or stand aside
- Conduct straw poll/vote
- Send proposal to a subgroup