Making decisions by consensus supports the achievement of the ultimate outcome.  The ultimate outcome for the Song of Sonoma Chorus is a superior musical product.

Making Decisions by Consensus

For some coordinators, consensus will be a new way of making decisions.  Because consensus strives for agreement of everyone on the team, the support of all team members is necessary to generate team goals and solve problems.  If the issue is complicated, try to achieve consensus during each step of the process.

It can be difficult and time-consuming to arrive at consensus, especially if the process is unfamiliar to team members.  One may feel frustrated because the process takes more time than you expected or because you cannot determine an acceptable solution right away.  The team may be tempted to give up on consensus and revert to a power approach.  Some members of the team may become irritated or angry with other team members when they refuse to open up and express their ideas and feelings, are too frank in their criticism of ideas presented for consideration, or are too stubborn in defending their own ideas.  However, with practice, achieving consensus becomes easier and less time-consuming.

Achieving consensus builds unity.  Small changes or additions to an idea may be enough to satisfy concerns, thereby allowing the group to reach agreement.  Collaboration produces better solutions that result from everyone’s participation and buy-in.

To test for consensus, ask questions such as”  “Do we all agree?”  or “Is this something you can all get behind and work on?” or “Does anyone have a problem with this proposal?”  If a team member says she cannot support an idea, then the group has not reached consensus.  Follow up with a question like:  “How can we change the idea / proposal so that you can live with it?”  Then involve the group in the ensuing discussion.

What Consensus Is:

  • Consensus is a process used to reach agreement. It can be experienced only when everyone has participated in the decision-making process and can support the final decision.
  • Consensus is flexible. The process of reaching consensus often uncovers thoughts and ideas that otherwise might not surface.  Through discussion, sometimes a more creative or different solution is reached than the one originally targeted.  Often groups find routes to agreements that no one recognized when discussion first began.
  • Consensus accommodates varying point of view. Consensus also means that you have a voice and can block decisions that you cannot accept.  However, you must then be prepared to present a viable alternative, not just reject the ideas of others.  One value of a diverse team is hearing many points of view, which can lead to better ideas.  Decisions made by consensus pull people together rather than polarizing them as voting often does.
  • Consensus does not mean saying “yes” when you really mean “no.” It is important that team members be honest and forthright in stating opinions.  Giving your “real” opinion after the meeting to friends over lunch or in the parking lot defeats the team’s purpose.  Lack of commitment and follow-through are almost always the result when the “no’s” are not expressed and fully discussed during team meetings.
  • Consensus is not majority rule. When the minority is forced to go along with the majority, subtle and overt resistance may occur.  Consensus decisions require a degree of discussion and interchange that doesn’t occur in voting.

How Consensus Works:

  • Clearly state the issue / needed solution.
  • Keep sight of the group’s objective.
  • Open discussion for possible suggestions / solutions.
  • Allow opportunity for every member to state opinions.
  • Identify an initial solution.
  • Ask for every person’s agreement.
  • If agreement is not reached, identify elements needing further discussion.
  • By changing one of the elements, agreement by everyone can be reached.

If things stall:

  • Take a break for time to think.
  • Assign a task force to investigate further.
  • Change facilitators.