Studies and experience have demonstrated time and time again that consensus decisions are almost always the best and highest quality decisions; they often produce the best outcomes.
This is based on what we know about people’s behaviors and motivations. if they are involved in the decision process, they are invested in its result. Behaviorally, they recognize they are at least partly responsible for the success of the decision’s outcome.
People work harder and more energetically to execute an idea or decision they had a role in making, and this almost always results in significantly improved outcomes.
Use consensus decision making when you have plenty of time to create the decision, and when you have a clearly cohesive group of people to participate in the process.
Use consensus decision making when the quality is more important than time. Quite frankly, this should be most of the time.
Is Consensus Decision Making Right for Your Situation?
Of course, deciding when consensus decision making is appropriate is the key to using this mechanism best.
Consensus decision making is best used when there is a clearly identifiable group or team to make the decision. The boundaries of the group need to be clear, such as a normal work team with a clearly established membership and common goals and objectives, or a management team that routinely meets to collaborate – not an ad hoc group of people just brought together, which just ends up being consultation.
The situation needs to be right as well. Never use consensus for personal actions. That’s a manager’s job, pure and simple. Never use consensus for determining equipment purchases, product development decisions, budget decisions, or similar decisions.
Consensus Decisions making is best when the team member, or participants, have a real stake in the process or the outcome, or both: a work team deciding how most effectively to achieve a goal or objective, a management team deciding how best to integrate new processes or procedures that affect everyone; or a group of workers deciding how best to change a process to increase efficiency.
All of these are good situations for consensus decision making. Remember, however, that the manager’s role is to facilitate the process.