Consensus is a point of maximum agreement so action can follow. It is a win-win situation in which everyone in the team feels that he or she has one solution that does not compromise any strong convictions or needs. To reach consensus, team members share ideas, discuss, evaluate, organize, and prioritize ideas, and struggle to reach the best conclusions together.
A good test for consensus is to ask the question “can you support this decision?” If everyone can support it, the team has achieved 100% consensus.
Consensus is not always the best strategy. In some cases, reaching consensus does not result in a better decision or outcome. For example, team members are capable of unanimously agreeing on a completely incorrect solution to a problem. But generally, reaching consensus remains a highly desirable goal.
To make consensus work, the team leader must become skilled at separating the content of the team’s work (the task) from the process (how the team goes about doing the task). But the process should get the most attention. A facilitative leader helps a team to solve its own problem. The problem-solving process is as follows:
- Identify the problem or goal.
- Generate alternative solutions.
- Establish objective criteria.
- Decide on a solution that best fits the criteria.
- Proceed with the solution.
- Evaluate the solution.
Everyone involved in the process should understand exactly which step is being worked on at any given point. When team members sense a problem, they are usually reacting to symptoms of the problem. But they are the side effects of the real problem which usually lies below the surface.