You can’t make a consensus decision by yourself.

Consensus decision-making is occasionally viewed as a panacea; however, there are several potential shortcomings. Like most situations, knowing an issue is a major step to resolving the issue. (more…)

Consensus decision-making is perceived to be one of the most prevalent decision-making tools in organizations today due, in part, to organizations’ use of teams and Agile. To be efficient, consensus decision-making requires five significant prerequisites. They are:

Common Goal

A common goal provides a decision making group with a rallying point that helps keep teams and organizations moving in the same direction.  In addition, decision-makers can evaluate whether each individual decision generates progress toward the goal or at the very least which potential decision in any decision set will move the needle.

Commitment to Reach a Consensus

Everyone needs to agree that they will arrive at a consensus.  Without a commitment to consensus, an individual or a small group can block movement. Individuals or subgroups that resist not only can stop a decision but also force others to come to a consensus with their point of view even if that point of view is unwise or unhealthy for the group.


Team members must trust that everyone participating in making a consensus decision have both the same goal and the best interests of the team at heart.  There can be no fear that after making a decision individuals will actively or passively subvert the decision.  Throwing members under the bus when a decision is questioned is a trust killer and will make forming consensus in the future nearly impossible.  Trust and commitment to reach a consensus are highly intertwined.

Active Participation

Active participation in the decision process includes both listening and engagement.  Participation helps a team to move toward consensus because it shortens the time it takes to expose and synthesize alternate views. The lack of active participation might be interpreted as an ability to live with a decision or it can be a sign of resistance. When facilitating a decision where people are not participating, the facilitator must probe to understand what is really happening.  Stating that lack of a response will be taken as acceptance is not active facilitation. Lack of active participation in the decision process can also be a reflection of the wrong people being involved in making the decision.  Before convening a meeting to generate a consensus decision ask who should be involved and why.

Good Facilitation

Simply put, someone has to herd the cats in an effective manner.  An effective facilitator can help guide towards consensus rather than letting the group drift toward an answer.  Facilitation also helps avoid many of the potential pitfalls we will explore in the fourth entry of this theme.

Consensus decision-making is powerful and popular decision-making technique.  Teams often embrace the technique even when they haven’t ensured that they have all of the prerequisites lined up. Not dealing with the prerequisites will often lead to teams failing to generate a decision, generating an imperfect consensus, and/or splits in the team leading to resistance and infighting.  


Consensus Decision Making Theme:

  1. Consensus Decision-Making
  2. Prerequisites and Attributes for Consensus Decision-Making ** Current **
  3. Process for Consensus Decision-Making
  4. Issues with Consensus Decision.-Making