Reason 7 – Ideas to Try

They Require You to Make Decisions by Consensus

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. Is consensus the best way to make this particular decision?
  2. Have we REALLY listened to everyone?
  3. Even if we don’t agree with the decision, will we actively support it so the team can move forward?
  4. What will this active support look like?

Interesting ones:

  1. Is anyone on this team using consensus decision making as a weapon? Why might this be occurring?
  2. Do we talk about our team differently with people outside our team than we do with those on our team? Is this positive or negative?
  3. Overall, is our decision making as a team effective?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • The RESULT of consensus is that everyone will actively support the decision made.
  • The PROCESS of consensus is really listening for the validity in the points of view of others on the team
  • A signal that consensus is not working is when the passion goes out of the conversations and arguments. When this happens it might be time to consider a different decision making process.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Have you ever been on a team where consensus decision making worked really well? What helped in making it work well?
  2. And the opposite! Being on a team where consensus was just a pain in the neck (and elsewhere).
  3. What assumptions might be present when we think that consensus is a good way to make decisions?
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2 Responses

  1. Tom – boy does this take me back to my previous life in corporate. The President of the company believed that ALL decisions s/b made by consensus. Needless to say, I did not last long under her helm. Initially, I thought hmmm lets be open and see how this will work. Very quickly however I realized it works for some decisions however not all. She actually wanted terminations, compensation, project releases etc. all done by consensus. I believe the reason she wanted consensus was she struggled making decisions. If felt like we were chasing our tails, namely when big decisions had to be made.

    I do want to be clear, I do belief strongly in “deep democracy” where everyone in the team has a voice and we want to hear it. However at the end of the day the weight has to go to the leader. There are times that the Leader may have additional information that they are not able to share. It is important that the individuals of the team understand that the leaders voice has more weight and not always however at times will make the final decision. People so want to have a voice and often they are able to share the day to day implications and impact that a leader may not be previ to. To have deep democracy it needs to be set up intentionally with the team system. The deep democracy happens best when there is high level of trust and the leader really does listen to not only what is being said however what is not being said.

    Also important if the leader has made a decision to not go with what the general consensus is to communicate if possible why.

    • Another great comment Wendy; and while one corporation I’m sure is missing you, many others are benefiting!

      It is interesting how often people think consensus is the best way to hear hear ‘all voices’ when in reality it is a decision making process that may or may not hear all voices. The ideas of involvement, listening, engagement are patterns of interaction that can be experienced in countless way, yet often consensus can be the fall to process.

      Your point on deep democracy is interesting and likely will better discussed (at least for me!) in the OUCH! work. I think In many ways, democracy, deep or otherwise is at odds with the way power is used and expected to be used in organizational life. I hope we can interact more on this topic, including what you mean by the term ‘deep democracy’ down the road…

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