Facilitator Journal | Issue #0472, December 28, 2010
This week, leadership development expert Dan McCarthy has consented to allowing me to republish his recent post on consensus decision-making entitled, How to Maximize Collaboration and Reach Consensus in Under an Hour. Dan is the author of the award winning leadership development blog Great Leadership whose posts are based on his 20 years of experience as a practitioner in the field of leadership development. I hope you enjoy it and look forward to your feedback.
Another colleague, Kevin Eikenberry is sponsoring a Training, Coaching and Consulting Survey to help us identify our reader's interests and needs for the coming year.
Those who fill out the survey will be invited to a webinar where Kevin will review the results. Please consider participating in this short reflection around your business and your work. Go here to begin.
We hope our work continues to bring inspiration to your world. Thank you for being a part of our growing community. Please continue to send the wonderful feedback.
How to Maximize Collaboration and Reach Consensus in Under an Hour.
Group Process Skill
In my last post, I described 5 decision making options leaders can choose, depending on the amount of time allowed and input and buy-in needed.
This post describes a process a leader can use to help a group reach an efficient consensus decision.
First of all, it’s important to define what’s meant by “consensus”.
Here’s a definition that’s works for me:
Consensus is a decision that every member of the group has had input to,
understands, and is willing to support.
Note that consensus does not mean that everyone agrees with the decision 100%. It mean’s they’ve had their say – and have been listened to – and at the end of the day, are committed to supporting the decision. The final decision is owned by the group.
The leader also needs to decide on a “fallback” method in case the group cannot reach true consensus. Otherwise, in theory if just one person is not willing to support the decision, the meeting can go on forever.
The two most common fallback options are:
1. The group votes, majority rules.
2. The leader decides.
The threat of a fallback is a deterrent – it rarely has to be used, however, having it will motivate a group to give and take in order to reach a consensus.
What follows is a general process to use when making consensus decisions. It’s a way to ensure everyone has a say, generates energy, and can quickly move a group to a decision they can all buy in to and support.
The leader should check for agreement at the beginning and end of each step. Consensus building is a series of small agreements as you scale the mountain – you don’t just leap to one big agreement at the end.
1. Frame the decision. Agree on what is being decided. Test your decision statement to make sure it’s not too narrow in a way that limits your options. For example, instead of “choose between a Honda Pilot or a Ford Explorer”, the decision might be “choose the best mode of family transportation”.
2. Generate alternatives. This is the time to brainstorm. Follow the rules of brainstorming (anything goes, don’t evaluate, build on each others ideas, etc…) and write each idea on a flipchart of whiteboard (or a virtual whiteboard if using web conferencing).
3. Clarify alternatives. Take some time to allow questions for clarification. This is not the time to evaluate an idea – or to agree or disagree – it’s strictly to make sure everyone understands each alternative.
4. Narrow down the choices. Add up the total number of ideas and divide by 3. So if 30 ideas: 30/3=10. In this case, give each team member 10 sticker dots (can be purchased at any office supply store). Have the group place their stickers on the alternatives they like the most. Make sure you tell this group this IS NOT the decision making process – it is strictly an efficient way to “take the temperature” of the group to see which ideas rise to the top and sink to the bottom. There are many ways to do this, but I usually say one sticker per alternative to keep it simple.
5. Keep and discard. Start with the alternative with the most votes and ask: “It looks like this one got the most votes – how about if this one stays for now?” If everyone agrees, then circle it. Then go to the alternative with no votes, or the least, and ask: “OK, this one didn’t get any votes – can we eliminate it?” If no one objects, draw a line through it. If someone strongly objects – ask why. Give them time to make their case, and then move on to the next.
Although this may sound like a long and tedious process, it actually can go pretty quickly. The group often just decides they’ll go with the alternative with the most votes. A leader can also suggest combining ideas, by asking “So what is it about option A that you like so much? Can we add something to option B to satisfy that need?”
There may be times when it’s appropriate to choose multiple alternatives. In fact, that’s often the case. For problem solving (i.e., “best ways to reduce expenses”, or “best ways to generate revenue”), it’s typical to leave with a list of alternatives.
6. Summarize the decision(s), and decide on who’s going to do what by when. This is the test of true commitment. Usually when a group reaches a true consensus decision, the energy and commitment is so high people are clamoring to sign up for action items. If all of a sudden the room goes quiet and no one is making eye contact, chances are you missed a step in the consensus building process.
Next, pass out pins, have everybody stick a pin in their finger, and sign their names on the flipcharts in blood (just kidding).
Consensus building is hard work for a leader – it takes a willingness to “roll the dice” and be open to any alternative. Big egos need to be set aside. However, the time and work invested will yield not only higher quality decisions, but implementation will be faster and smoother because everyone will be committed to the outcome.
About the Author: Dan McCarthy is the author of the award winning leadership development blog “Great Leadership”. Topics are based on over 20 years of experience as a practitioner in the field of leadership development. He is currently the Manager of Leadership and Management Development at a Fortune "Great Place to Work", "Training Top 125", and "High Impact Learning" (HILO 80) company. Previous experience includes management positions in leadership development, human resources, and training for a global Fortune 100 company, and Director of HRD for a public utility. Dan is a member of the SmartBrief on Workforce Advisory Board, and an influential voice in talent management social media.
Add Your Comments
How does this compare to consensus decision-making processes you've used . Please click on the Add Your Comments and tell us what this article inspires in you.
This Week's Offer
Getting Full Participation Facilitator's Guide
This learning guide is for anyone who plays a facilitative or leadership role in a group who wants to discover new and creative ways to get more involvement from individual group members. In particular, it is useful for group facilitators, trainers, life coaches, teachers, business and community leaders, and managers.
Some reasons you'll want this guide:
- Offers Just in Time Training" to facilitators and group workers in key skill areas or situations. This Facilitator Guide explores Full Participation more completely than any other document we've seen before.
- No fluff! This guide is practical, easy to read, with ideas and actions you can use right away.
- Includes an audio portion that answers real world problems in getting Full Participation from group members.
- Includes a full training license so that you can teach this material to others.
- Includes tools and perspectives that will help your group members understand what it means to participate fully.
- Illustrated 20-page guide will help you to drill down deep and master the art of facilitating Full Participation in any situation.
- This information-packed guide is a must to include in your personal Facilitator's Toolkit
Here's an overview of the contents of this information-rich guide:
Why full participation? Explores the benefits of full participation and ramifications of not having it.
What is full participation? Explores a new model of full participation from a 3-dimensional perspective.
Facilitating full participation. Looks at perspectives to take to facilitate full participation using this new model.
Facilitator's full participation inventory. A 10-part self-assessment to help facilitators become better at this skill.
Participant's full participation inventory. A 10-part self-assessment for your participants to help them be conscious of behaviors that make up Full Participation.
Full participation strategies. 25 strategies you can employ to get Full Participation.
Worksheets. Worksheets to collect your own ideas, resources, and actions to employ what you learn from the guide.
Cautions. Explores special situations to be aware of around this skill.
Contrarion perspective on full participation. Resources that look at possible negative impacts of full participation.
License Rights. Owners of this guide are granted a license to copy and distribute this material in their own trainings, workshops, and groups. Basically, you can do anything you want with this guide expect sell it yourself.
Cost of this Guide: $29.95
Special Offer: Purchase Getting Full Participation with
the Facilitator's Checklists Collection for only $49
Click here for details on the Facilitator's Checklists Collection
Click below to purchase both for only $49
Click below to purchase the Getting Full Participation Only $29.95
FacilitatorU.com Membership Option
Become a FacilitatorU.com member and receive these guides for free along with a host of other items and benefits. An exceptional value. Click here for details.
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.
About the satisfaction guarantee