Getting Consensus?

Adelle emerged from the conference room after two long hours of debate. She shook her head from side to side, a genuine look of despair. “I tried,” she shrugged, “but we didn’t make a whole lot of progress. What we ended up with was mostly crap.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Oh, we have been trying to figure out the best way to solve this problem and there are a bunch of ideas, but we just can’t reach a consensus on which way to proceed. I am afraid to get started until I know for sure that everyone is on board. But every time we make a compromise, other people drop off and want something different.”

“What happens to the quality of the solution every time you compromise?”

“That’s the real problem. It’s the compromising that kills it. After listening to all the input, I know what we should do and the little compromises just water it down. We might as well junk the whole project because, in this state, it will not do what the customer wants it to do.”

“Whose meeting did you just walked out of?” I asked.

It was Adelle’s turn to ask, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, was it the team’s meeting, or was it your meeting? Let me put it a different way. Who is your boss going to hold accountable for this decision?”

“Oh, I tried that once, blaming a decision on the team. I got the message. My boss is going to hold me accountable for the decision.”

“Then, it wasn’t a team meeting. It was YOUR meeting that the team got invited to. It is your responsibility to listen to the input, and it is also your responsibility to make the decision. And you don’t need agreement, you just need support.”

Adelle had to sit down to think about this one.

2 thoughts on “Getting Consensus?

  1. Jeff Stern

    Seems to me that there is also not a team responsibility to the outcome. Adele’s goals should be flowing down to her team based upon their expertise. Sounds to me like they felt that they were solving ‘her’ problem.

    1. Bruce Peters

      Do we confuse “consensus” with as you describe “support”? (And what does support actually mean? I am guessing it more than tacit support? )
      What’s the appropriate framing before putting the issue in the table?
      The old story resonates about Abe Lincoln asking for yays and nays in the cabinet meeting when everyone but Abe voted nay. Abe voted aye. The ayes have it.
      The framing might have been “it is my decision to make but I am open to your thoughts, ideas and/or opinions” “and my expectation is once decided we will go forward together as a team and each of you will play the role appropriate to fully implementing the decision. Or are you saying something different?


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