Consensus-Building Decision-Making

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We provide space – quiet, relaxed and inviting space – for meetings at Holy Wisdom Monastery. We recognize the value of good planning for these meetings, and so we share the following suggestions from Drew Howick, a former president of our Benedictine Life Foundation board.

The following was adapted with permission from the book “The New Compleat Facilitator: A Handbook for Facilitators,” written by Drew Howick, Stuart Daily, and Abby Sprik, and published in its second edition in 2002 by Howick Associates. Over 20,000 copies have been sold to date.

Here are some helpful tips for building consensus during a decision-making process:

While there are a number of ways to arrive at decisions – voting, lottery, dictum – the more effective groups make their decisions through consensus.

When a group reaches consensus, it has agreed on a decision that every person “can live with.” This means that everyone in the group has agreed to support the decision, even if some members might have wished for a slightly different decision. Consensus-building is a process, a way of approaching information-gathering, idea-generating, and decision-making that moves the group toward its most effective outcome.

When a decision is reached by consensus, each group member should be able to honestly say:

  • “I believe the group understands my point of view.”
  • “I believe I understand the points of view in the group.”
  • “This might not have been my first choice, but I can live with it.”
  • I will support this decision because it was reached in an open and fair manner.”

Consensus-building is an expression of trust, respect for one another and a commitment to the group’s mission. While other approaches to decision-making, such as voting, may seem faster, consensus speeds implementation because a decision reached by consensus has gained the buy-in of the entire group. Whenever possible, use consensus-building to optimize communication, motivate group members to work together on implementation, and minimize the risk of sabotage by disgruntled members.

How to make decisions: consensus-building

  • Summarize the team’s work up to this point. Clarify the issue and review the options.
  • Identify points of agreement.
  • Identify points of disagreement.
  • Listen carefully to everyone’s point of view and rationale.
  • Make sure the team sticks to the Ground Rules during all discussions.
  • Determine the underlying assumptions and discuss the validity of those assumptions.
  • Obtain additional data, if necessary, to validate those assumptions.
  • Use techniques and tools, such as multi-voting and decision matrix, to help the team develop the best solutions.

If you are interested in holding a meeting at Holy Wisdom Monastery, please view the Facilities page on our site, or contact Pat at (608) 831-9303.

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