5 Steps to Consensus Building

When making a decision, organizations often employ the "majority rules" method. That may be fine for the Electoral College, but in the workplace it typically fosters unhealthy competition and leaves one side feeling victorious. Meanwhile, the other side may feel slighted and uncommitted to the verdict.

A better approach is to build consensus through group cooperation. It allows everyone involved to have a role and voice in the process as well as ownership of the end result — providing the best circumstances for a new idea to become a successful reality. To quickly and easily build consensus for your ideas, follow these five steps:

1. Do your homework. Before you float anything by key decision-makers, be sure you have a cohesive proposal. Gather pertinent data, determine customer needs and wants, and price out the cost.

2. Come together. Determine the main stakeholders whose support you'll need to get the idea off the ground and invite them to discuss your proposal. During the meeting, let everyone know that opinions are important and welcome, disagreement is normal and healthy, and the ultimate goal is to find a solution everyone can get behind.

3. Build your case. Define the decision on which you're looking to gain consensus, ensuring that everyone understands the idea and challenges. When presenting your proposal, explain the return on investment and extremes of possible solutions — outlining what would happen if an all-or-nothing approach were taken — while highlighting your idea as a viable middle ground.

4. Identify problems. Explain points of agreement and contention with your proposal. Find out not only the "what" but also the "why" of any sticking points. Understanding the reasons behind dissent is essential to pinpoint what needs to change to move your idea forward. This is a good opportunity for your team to come together to brainstorm possible solutions.

5. Modify your plan. Continue to compromise, adjust and fine-tune until everyone is satisfied with the solution. Make changes to the original proposal, incorporating the feedback you've gained from the group. Then bring it back to them as many times as it takes to get a consensus.

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