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CONSENSUS

When employees irrespective of their status, confer with one another to come to a unanimous decision it is called consensus. It is a decision making process that not only ensures the agreement of most participants but also mitigates the objection of the minority to achieve the most agreeable decision Consensus intends to play down the role of groups and to promote expression of individual voices. It seeks to lessen objections because decisions are more likely to be carried out when they are widely approved. The issue is studied, the pros and cons analysed, individual views aired and a decision is arrived at. The action is then to be implemented. The easier option is to list known alternatives, debate for a while and vote. The majority will reject or accept the matter. Here individual expression is suppressed by the dominating few. A consensus does not depend on majority votes, it depends on convincing the minority to agree to the best option.

Issue

Decision

Action

Instruction

Arriving at a mutual agreement is not very easy. The more difficult part is carrying out the decision and implementing action. Without implementation of action, decision is just talk. They cannot be carried out unless they are personally followed up by authority (the decision leader). One of the drawbacks of consensus is time. It requires patience to listen to the views of all the people concerned, discuss each option before focusing on the best one. Inspite of this, group activity being a mutual agreement many times these unanimous decisions are looked at a signs of forcible agreement due to the persuasive power or eloquence of some, inability to understand other options or simply impatience with the whole process. Sometimes charismatic leaders persuade group members to go along with them and they comply. It has also been criticised as having less accountability. The responsibility is spread among group members making no one person answerable for the consequences of a decision. Many times dissenting opinion are not expressed for fear of breaking the consensus. These members are under the mistaken impression that nobody else in the group opposes the resolution. Consensus decisions are also prone to sabotage by the minority who may not have agreed whole heartedly. Inspite of drawbacks, consensus is appreciated because iot promotes better understanding and participation among group members. Being part of the decision making process they feel a sense of responsibility. Personnel who are new to jobs learn much as they are exposed to making and taking decisions on the basis of consultation and they are faced with different alternatives and different interests during discussions. It is a compromise accepted on the basis of trust and understanding rather than a conflict. To improve the decision making process, the organization should have trained personnel who can handle groups. The discussion should involve sharing of information and active listening. If group members

are given limited chances to voice their opinions all the members get to express their views. No one can be accused of dominating the process. All the group members must understand that the ideas and solution belong to the group and not individuals. True consensus involves meeting every need of the issue. As a decision-making process, consensus decision-making aims to be :Agreement Seeking: A consensus decision making process attempts to help everyone get what they need Collaborative: Participants contribute to a shared proposal and shape it into a decision that meets the concerns of all group members as much as possible.

Cooperative: Participants in an effective consensus process should strive to reach the best possible decision for the group and all of its members, rather than competing for personal preferences. Egalitarian: All members of a consensus decision-making body should be afforded, as much as possible, equal input into the process. All members have the opportunity to present, and amend proposals. Inclusive: As many stakeholders as possible should be involved in the consensus decision-making process. Participatory: The consensus process should actively solicit the input and participation of all decision-makers.

Alternative to common decision-making practices Consensus decision making is an alternative to commonly practiced non-collaborative decision making processes. Robert's Rules of Order, for instance, is a process used by many organizations. The goal of Roberts Rules is to structure the debate and passage of proposals that win approval through majority vote. This process does not emphasize the goal of full agreement. Critics of Roberts Rules believe that the process can involve adversarial debate and the formation of competing factions. These dynamics may harm group member relationships and

undermine the ability of a group to cooperatively implement a contentious decision. Consensus decision making is also an alternative to top-down decision making, commonly practiced in hierarchical groups. Topdown decision making occurs when leaders of a group make decisions in a way that does not include the participation of all interested stakeholders. The leaders may (or may not) gather input, but they do not open the deliberation process to the whole group. Proposals are not collaboratively developed, and full agreement is not a primary objective. Critics of top-down decision making believe the process fosters incidence of either complacency or rebellion among disempowered group members. Additionally, the resulting decisions may overlook important concerns of those directly affected. Poor group relationship dynamics and decision implementation problems may result. Consensus decision making addresses the problems of both Roberts Rules of Order and top-down models. The outcomes of the consensus process include: Better Decisions: Through including the input of all stakeholders the resulting proposals can best address all potential concerns.

Better Implementation: A process that includes and respects all parties, and generates as much agreement as possible sets the stage for greater cooperation in implementing the resulting decisions. Better Group Relationships: A cooperative, collaborative group atmosphere fosters greater group cohesion and interpersonal connection.

Flowchart of basic consensus decision-making process.