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Levels of Consensus
Consensus is not agreement. Reaching consensus in a group means everyone can live with the decision or choice.
After individuals who disagree explain their distaste for a particular direction, they will trust the wisdom of the group and go along. Teams with the goodwill and trust to operate by consensus presume no one team member will block the desire of multiple colleagues who strongly support a decision.
If any team member is truly uncomfortable and feels the need to stand in the way, rather than rejecting the decision outright, they ask to keep the discussion alive. More discussion will likely change the conviction others hold about the decision at hand.
Simply impeding the decision by refusing to accept it is a choice rarely made by any team member. If it happens often, it signals the team does not share the trust and respect to operate by consensus.
Too many teams continue to discuss decisions and issues where consensus already exists. This is a huge time sink and takes time away from other issues that require discussion or debate.
To avoid this, good teams often use a device to test the consensus that exists with a decision at any point in time. By quickly gauging conviction in support or against a decision, leaders know where to best invest the group’s time.
Levels of Consensus is one such device that is used widely in effective organizations. In this format, six levels of conviction exist.
I am a champion of the decision and am satisfied that the decision expresses the wisdom of the group.
I find the decision to be perfectly acceptable.
I can live with the decision, although I am not especially enthusiastic about it.
I do not fully agree with the decision, and I need to register my view about it. I am willing to support the decision because I trust the wisdom of the group.
My preference is to continue our discussion on this decision. We need to do more work before we can reach consensus.
I have to stand in the way of this decision.
Expressing a level is not a vote but a measure of conviction at a given point in time. The presumption is that a team member’s level might change as the ongoing discussion and debate influence their thinking.
Using the Levels of Consensus tool to test where the group stands on an issue before a discussion can save valuable time. Teams already have consensus on many more issues and decisions than leaders often realize. Save the discussion time for those ideas where consensus will be difficult to achieve. Then work to create it.