Decisions From A Consensus

Any experienced Project Manager knows that getting a single definitive decision, by which to solve a particular problem or issue, from a group of individuals is not very likely to happen. Everyone has their own ideas on what to do, everyone thinks their idea will be the best and, of course, everyone is out to impress upon you that “they’re” the individual you can rely on and most need help from. In some regards of course this situation can be thought of as being a rather healthy one – in that everyone is trying to do their best for you and no one is simply “along for the ride”. However, you can quickly start to waste time if inertia sets in and you can’t make a decision – which is when arriving at decisions from a consensus point of view becomes important.

Building a consensus.

Can't decide? Build a consensus of opinion first.
Building a consensus isn't quite as simple as saying “51% agree with solution x, so that's the one I'll go for”. Instead you need to be a little bit more scientific in your approach, along the following lines. First of all clearly and concisely define the issue to be dealt with. Then identify what you think will be possible options that will produce a solution for it, then just ask for additional ideas from your team members to add to the list you've produced. It's likely that your issue has more than one component to it. eg. There will be labor to get in place, material costs, logistics to organize etc. So agree with the team members if any of the components need to be given a weighting to emphasize their importance. You can then circulate the list of ideas asking everyone to assign a score to each item on the list, using say, 1 to 10 – where 1 is poor to 10 is excellent. When you've got the returns, multiply in any of the component weightings and and then rank the options in order to arrive at a consensus decision.

Now review the decision.

OK, so now you’ve got a consensus decision – but is it the right one? Don’t be tempted to just think that’s it, kismet, it must be so. You should now review what your consensus survey has told you, in order to check that there are no underlying factors that could disrupt the decision you seem to have arrived at. In doing this you can also discuss face-to-face with your team members any misgivings they might have about the path to be taken.