reach a consensus
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Techniques to Reach a Consensus in Group Decision Making

Getting a team to agree on a decision can be challenging. This article will take you through some techniques that can help you to reach a consensus.

Introduction on how to reach a consensus 

You are rarely alone in business when making a decision, and trying to get a team to make a decision can be a challenging task. There is a definite benefit in getting a group of people involved in the decision-making process with more opportunities for input and technical expertise. However, it can also lead to difficulties in actually coming to a decision, with differing viewpoints from team members involved. This article will take you through the steps that will help you make the decision in the most effective way and reach a consensus.

Steps to successfully reach a consensus

  1. CHOOSE YOUR TEAM
    Firstly choose your team, ensuring you have the right people involved. Do they have the expertise to help with the process and are they directly affected by the issue and the solution?
  2. OUTLINE THE ISSUE
    Clearly explain the issue to the team and provide them with the timing, tools and resources they will need. Talk them through how decisions will be made and a consensus reached.
  3. FACILITATE OPEN DISCUSSION
    At this stage you want all possible ideas to be discussed, so you want to let the ideas flow, and don’t reject any. The time for evaluating options will come at a later stage. The team needs to consider everyone that might be impacted by the issue. They also need to think about all the possible impacts of implementing a solution – it might not work for all parties.
  4. ENSURE ALL THE TEAM PARTICIPATES
    In a group of people, there are often one or two who are more active or assertive in the meeting than others, and there may be some that don’t come forward and make their viewpoint known. If you are in this situation with your team, you could end up with a result that doesn’t accurately reflect the whole team’s true feelings.
    In order to manage the possibility of this situation, a technique known as the Stepladder Technique can be used. This technique was developed in 1992 by Steven Rogelberg, Janet Barnes-Farrell, and Chares Lowe and involves getting each team member to articulate their ideas individually as follows:The first two members of the team are brought together to discuss their thoughts and ideas. Once they have had a discussion, a third member of the team is brought in. This third member is asked to present their opinions on the topic, before hearing from the first two.
    In this way, they are given the opportunity to speak before being potentially biased by the ideas of the first two. Then the group of three discuss the topic together.
    Following this, the process is repeated with each member of the team so that all have an opportunity to present their ideas.
  5. COME UP WITH PROPOSALS
    Using the ideas from every team member, work through the proposals, fleshing them out with further details. Again at this stage, nothing should be rejected. This is an excellent opportunity to look at the issue with no boundaries.
  6. CHOOSE AN OPTION
    Now is the time for team members to choose their preferred option(s). You could select for just a standard voting system to be implemented or you may wish to consider multi-voting. This can be a way of reducing a long list of options to a final, smaller list of options.
    To avoid ending up in a stalemate where many options have the same number of votes, all team members are given a number of weighted votes. For example, they should allocate five votes to their top option, four to the next preferred one and down to one for their fifth option. To make the logistics more manageable, you might choose to assign each option a letter. Votes can be cast on slips of paper to preserve anonymity. At the end of the process, you can add up the points for each option to establish the favourites.
    This technique encourages the team members to think carefully through each option but doesn’t require them to make a final decision on one, just their top five preferences.
  7. DEVELOP AND FINALISE THAT OPTION
    Now that you have reached a decision of a generally accepted option, you need to develop it further by going back to the original issue to ensure it covers all the underlying concerns and you have addressed the problem you wanted to resolve.
    Ensure there are no further considerations to be factored into the final decision. This is the final chance for team members to comment on the decision. At this stage, you need to ensure the team is happy with the outcome and how it will be taken forward.

Summary

This step-by-step process will help your team reach a consensus in the decision-making process, and the additional techniques may assist through the more challenging situations that occur.

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