Shortcutting the consensus process

Consensus Reaching is a really useful mechanism both for building shared commitment, and for ensuring a complete understanding of all of the available facts and experience. But it is time consuming, and sometimes the available facts and experience are not that important, and sometimes neither in the overall scheme of things is the decision. If you devolve into consensus reaching over when to have a break, it is time to reassess the cost/value balance of your approach.

And that essentially is the crux of when to use consensus reaching – when the value of shared commitment to a conclusion outweighs the cost of arriving at it (or the cost of the consequences of not arriving at it).
So, what are your alternatives? Is there ‘Consensus Light’?  Well, in a manner of speaking, there is.
If you have a number of different things that are candidates for consensus reaching, you can use other processes to narrow these candidates down to a priority set. The principle of consensus is: ‘We may not arrive at the best answer, but we accept a fair process of arriving at a best guess using the information, time and resources we have to hand.’. That ‘fair process’ can be applied in different ways in the different stages of consensus.
For instance, if you have more proposals than you can reasonably or economically handle, you can ask the group to consider a reasonable amount of time to allocate to this  decision.
Depending on your group size and level of extrovert/enthusiasm disposition, consensus could easily consume 15-30 minutes per decision, so that sets your budget. The next question is to ask them to use sticky dots to vote on which candidate decisions represent the best use of that time. Give them each a number of dots between two and the number of items you are likely to take forward. But before you do – before anyone sticks anything anywhere – gain agreement that this is a fair way forward.
An interesting thing about consensus is that the more you use it the less you need a process (or significant time) to deliver it. Without consensus, people can often hold an unresolved grievance over how much their opinion is heard. But once they realise the process is fair, they begin to reassess the consequential cost of always contributing their opinion, and more readily trust and accept the outcomes without a prolonged discussion process.
Once the commitment component ceases to be a particular issue, you can better concentrate on the consensus process being a way of airing the key facts and experiences.
Consensus light is virtually any process where people are consulted on the method and agree to abide by the outcomes. And a group of committed people can often do a better job with a poor decision than the uncommitted can deliver through a good one.

Please subscribe to access clinic content

Subscription to the Inspirometer Information Service is free of charge and grants you instant access to a wealth of meeting effectiveness resources and guidance. It also provides you with regular updates direct to your mailbox at a frequency of your choosing.

I am happy to consent to the Inspirometer cookies and Terms and Conditions

Your use of the Inspirometer Information Service is subject to the following terms and conditions, and is subject to our privacy policy which can be reviewed here:

■ We will not use your information for any other purpose than to keep you informed of developments in meeting effectiveness and the Inspirometer system, and we will not share your information with others.
■ You are able to unsubscribe from this service at any time. Each email you receive from us will contain a link where you can reset your preferences for all future emails, or unsubscribe for the service entirely.
■ We will contact you on a minimum of a quarterly basis to ensure that our service is continuing to meet your needs, to give you a general update on key developments in our service, and to provide you with the option to change your contact preferences
■ We will hold your data on file to enable your access to the Information Service until such time as you unsubscribe from the service
■ If we hold your data outside of the information service as a result of you contacting us by email or purchasing our service, we will hold your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy ( We will delete such data, in situations where we are not legally required to retain it, on receipt of a verified request from you
■ All information provided by us is provided in good faith. All information submitted by you is to be provided in good faith.
■ In compliance with the GDPR 2018, you acknowledge that clicking the subscribe button grants us your consent to hold the data you have provided, and to contact you using that data, in the manner described above.
By clicking the button below, I agree with the Terms & Conditions.
Track your progress to ensure the efficacy of this strategy.