In many workplace cultures, the process of pursuing consensus for nearly all decisions is creating inefficiency and frustration. With the best of intentions of including others and gathering wisdom from throughout the organization, “consensus” has become the default decision-making process in many places.
Certainly, consensus has its place in organizational decision-making. If the input and support of every person in the process is vital to the success of a decision, then consensus may be appropriate. But there are caveats:
*Consensus is not good for decisions that need to be made quickly
*The goal-setting research* tells us that people will often support a decision made by a boss – without even providing input – as long as they think it sounds reasonable.
*Consensus can actually influence people to hold back strong opinions because they do not want to be seen as the person who made the process even slower.
Sometimes, a “collaboration” process – when led by a person with authority to make the final decision – can be the most effective decision-making approach.
For example, if a boss says:
“I need to make a decision about this issue. Your ideas and input are very important to me. My deadline is 5:00 p.m. tomorrow. Let’s meet from 9:00 – Noon tomorrow to brainstorm, discuss, and debate. At the end of the process I will make the final call, but I want your enthusiastic and honest input. I value all perspectives.”
Done right, this process can provide freedom for the team to express a wide range of opinions and ideas on the topic. It also helps guard against “groupthink” by encouraging dissenting perspectives. Knowing that the group does not ultimately need to come to consensus can actually be empowering and lead to more creative, innovative ideas.
Consider the “collaboration” approach the next time you need to make a decision, would like input, but have a pressing deadline. You might find it to be a more effective approach and lead to an even more productive Mission Impact.
*A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance, by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham