Top 5 ways to build consensus

Getting everyone in a group to agree can be a challenging task. Tom Merritt offers five tips for building consensus in the workplace.

Top 5 ways to build consensus

Building consensus is important, but sometimes, it may also feel impossible. You have to keep in mind that rough consensus is not the same as agreement. How do you get a team of differing opinions to build a rough consensus about how to proceed, even when they don't all agree? Here are five ways to build consensus.

  1. Making choices: Make sure everybody understands you can choose an option that is not the best choice but would still work. Making choices should not be a winner-take-all vote, but an evaluation of trade-offs.
  2. Quick contributions may not be worth it: "Putting in your two cents" is often just making you feel like you're contributing without actually doing so. If you're not willing to spend time explaining why your input highlights something serious, it might not be worthwhile.
  3. Take fundamental flaws seriously: Don't just call something flawed because it's not your best choice--the team should have an agreed definition of what actually constitutes a fundamental flaw. And when an option is unacceptable, eliminate it.
  4. Ask if anyone can't accept an option: If you ask if everyone is okay with an option, you'll find that someone is certainly not. But people are less likely to argue that they can't live with an option--unless they have a really solid reason.
  5. Consensus building is the process, not the goal: You're not trying to get to consensus by any means necessary--you're building consensus for the best decision that will yield the best outcome. 

If you follow these kinds of methods, you'll hopefully end up with a good decision, not a decision by committee.

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By Tom Merritt

Tom is an award-winning independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows. Tom hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast, and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts Daily Tech News Show, coverin...