Consensus: The Right Team Decision Strategy?

Consensus is the appropriate decision strategy for the most important team decisions. Every member of your team needs to understand what consensus really means. A common misconception of consensus is that it means everyone agrees with the decision 100 percent.

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 would jump to a decision too quickly.

- Unimportant matters would be over-discussed.

Consensus means that everyone in the team can live with and fully support the decision. A win-win solution -- everyone feels that the best solution has been reached, team member positions were 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-consuming. 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 your team. Below are some guidelines to determine when consensus should be used.

- When the decision affects all members of the team.

- When the decision will have a long-term impact on the team's performance.

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

- When the decision requires the experience and skills 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 embers should attempt to explore alternatives. What should you do when a team is falling into Goupthink?

- Ask 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.

One of 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.

Denise O'Berry (aka 'Team Doc') provides tools, tips and advice to help organizations build better teams. Find out more at

In The News:

3 Ways to Train Leaders and Why Your Campus Should  The Chronicle of Higher Education

Putting Your Expert Team Together

As a freelance writer myself, I know how important it... Read More

Aligning Teams with Organizational Goals

Teams don't have to be aligned with the goals of... Read More

Company Picnic Ideas and Planning Tips

The company picnic is a beloved tradition at many firms.It's... Read More

Intercultural Team Building

Internal business structures have been radically transformed over the past... Read More

Effective Team Building Part 1 - Another Brick in the Wall!

The first in a series of articles giving a slightly... Read More

Top 7 Ways to Motivate Your Team

1. Involve them. Many employees want to be involved in... Read More

Motivate People with Feedback

Someone once said - "Feedback is the breakfast of champions."... Read More

Top Ten Things About Team Building

People who lead the best teams realise early on that... Read More

Designing and Deploying Human Centric Processes

A lot of effort has been carried out in the... Read More

Top Ten Creative Excursions for Building Effective Teams

The ability to build effective teams is a must for... Read More

People Are The Heart Of Your Organization

Do you let your people express their thoughts about the... Read More

Workplace Fitness: Tongue-In-Cheek

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Current English, to speak... Read More

What College Taught Me About Teamwork Training

I declared a Communications Major two years into school, after... Read More

Team Work - A Challenge of Character

Over the years there has been much ado about team... Read More

Team Building Celebration Plan -- Perfect For Any Time of Year

When was your last team celebration? Have you been way... Read More

Leadership, Genuine, Meaningful and Productive

One of the best lessons I have learned is the... Read More

What Do Trainers Do When They are Not Training?

In the new corporate environments where everyone wears more than... Read More

Cross-Cultural Communication: Grin and Jump In!

Multiculturalism is a reality in North America and for those... Read More

Teamwork, Rowing, & Paddles

Effective and sustainable teambuilding is necessary in today's marketplace where... Read More

Build a Great Team - Ten Easy Ways to Start!

It's all about focusing on where the best value in... Read More

Team Building Part 2: Honesty is the Key!

The second in a series of 2 articles giving a... Read More

Corporate Team Building

There is a WHOLE lot of talk these days about... Read More

Team Member Feedback: A Priceless Communication Tool

Feedback is such an important communication tool. Openness, honesty, candor,... Read More

Empower Your Trainees

One of the most memorable quotes that I heard from... Read More

Beyond Brainstorming ? Large Groups

When leaders, consultants and managers require ideas, they automatically tend... Read More