Consensus: Is that panacea for the team?

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Consensus is the appropriate decision strategy for the most important team decisions. Every member of your team really needs to understand what consensus means indeed. A common misconception of consensus is that it means everyone strictly agrees with the decision.

If a team adopted this definition as the basis for all of its decisions, what would happen?

– The team would never be able to make a decision.

– The team members would jump to a decision too quickly.

– Unimportant matters would be over-discussed.

Consensus means that ever team member can live with and fully support the decision. A win-win solution – everyone feels that the best solution has been reached, each position was heard, and no one had to give in on any strongly held convictions or needs.

So what’s the downside? Consensus decision making is time- and energy-expensive. It should be reserved for important decisions requiring strong team member support from those that will implement them.

How Do You Decide Which Strategy To Use?

It really depends on the decision being made and the size of the team. Below are some guidelines to determine when consensus should be used.

– When the decision affects whole your team.

– When the decision will have a long-term influence on the team’s performance.

– When the implementation of the solution requires coordination among team members.

– When the decision requires the participation of many team members.

– When the decision involves a critical work challenge requiring the full commitment of the team.

– When the team is not working under emergency conditions and has the time to make the decision.

Use Caution – Watch For Groupthink

We can’t leave decision strategies without touching on Groupthink, a negative strategy.

Groupthink occurs when team members try so hard to achieve harmony and quick, efficient decisions that they fall into the habit of agreeing with one another too quickly.

This method discourages questioning and divergent thinking, hinders creativity, and usually leads to an inferior decision.

Team members should attempt to explore alternatives. What should you do when a team is falling into Goupthink?

– Tell the team to come up with the pros and cons for the decision they have come up with. Weaknesses and concerns which may have been glossed over before will be brought out.

– Get the team to table the decision for now and come back with other alternatives at the next meeting.

Common Thread

Regardless of the decision strategy adopted by a team, there’s one common thread. All team decisions must be supported by the individual team members.

How can you tell after the decision has been made whether the team truly supported it? It is not supported when:

– People complain about or demean the decision after the fact.

– Team members do not follow through with actions to implement the decision.

The most significant contributions you can make if you are building a team is to help them come up with their own answers by using a proper decision strategy – so start using it.