Reaching Consensus: Group Decision Making: Part 3

Kaigi: Meeting (Meet, Society + Discussion, Legislative Body)
Kaigi: Meeting (Meet, Society + Discussion, Legislative Body)

Sometimes consensus isn’t all that easy to reach.

Especially when the stakes are high.
..or when the factors are complex
..or when you can’t agree on where the problem is.

To recap last week’s post, it’s rare that any agreement is reached without some discussion first: either inside or outside the meeting.

The first time any proposal comes to the table, teams usually fall into one of four categories:

  • Meager Support – When the team is equally split over the proposal
  • Lukewarm Support – When you have some team members willing to endorse the proposal, but most have concerns
  • Ambiguous Support – When the team is all over the map with some willing to agree, everyone has concerns and a few disagreeing, but willing to move forward
  • Enthusiastic Support – When the majority of the team is willing to endorse and only a minority have reservations

Getting from Lukewarm to Enthusiastic Support can be difficult at times, so knowing when to work through the issues so that your proposal has support and commitment after the meeting is critical.

When Enthusiastic Support is Critical

Following are five situations where the need for enthusiastic support is critical for your proposal’s success after the meeting:

  • Overall Importance of the Result
    If the consequences of failure would be severe, then enthusiastic buy-in by the team is critical. Everyone needs to understand the reasoning behind this decision and be willing to commit to helping the proposal succeed. In this situation, you want to spend time working through the issues.
  • Empowerment of Group Members
    If the team members will have to use their own judgment and creativity in the work, they need to understand the reasoning and benefits behind the decision. Seeking their buy-in will make people think through the logic of the issue.
  • Need for Stakeholder Buy-In
    If the result of the decision will impact the majority of the team and or external stakeholders, the decision needs to have the enthusiastic support of the team. Enthusiasm, as I mentioned in last week’s post, is a relative term here, as you could have teammembers with reservations and some that abstain.
  • Difficulty of the Issue At Hand
    Complex problems tend to have areas of ambiguity that require more time to work through.  Allow for time to walk through the discussion with the team and then work through the problem to reach a solution.  As I mentioned in the first post of this series, forcing a decision when everyone is still processing the issue may lead to one followup meeting, and then another and then still another.
  • Expected Longevity of the Result
    If pulling the trigger on the decision will be impossible or difficult to reverse, you need enthusiastic support. This is just common sense, some decisions deserve the time needed to get them right. On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of drawing out a minor decision so long that you could have made the decision and closed out the issue in the time it’s taking you to close discussion.

I found these ideas from A Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making extremely helpful in learning from my previous experiences and I will be adding them to my PM toolbox for the future. Let me know if you found them useful. Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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