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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 5

Consensus Building

A consensus is an agreement that is made among team members. Consensus building is a step-by-step decision-making process. Consensus building does not result in everyone getting his/her way. Instead, the result is an agreement that all team members can support.

Consensus building does not suggest the presence of a conflict. A team may need to build consensus on a variety of topics and issues. Some examples include:

  • Determining work schedules
  • Establishing a procedure for purchasing supplies
  • Deciding when and where to have a retreat
  • Determining the 'ground rules' for meetings (see Lesson 4)
  • Creating a team slogan or motto

Consensus building does not consist of voting or majority rule. Voting results in winners and losers. That is not the goal of consensus building. Consensus building involves an active, collaborative discussion among team members with the aim of arriving at a mutually acceptable agreement.

Experts agree that consensus is most likely to be achieved when a team follows a step-by-step process. Following a specific procedure helps the team stay focused and on track. Briggs (1997) has detailed the following steps for building consensus:

  1. Problem Definition: Gather all of the facts about the problem or issue. Sometimes, it helps to frame the issue as a question. For example, "How can we get our reports done more quickly?" (Briggs, 1997, p. 204).
  2. Generation of Alternative Solutions: Use a technique such as brainstorming to generate as many solutions as possible. In brainstorming, team members voice all possible solutions to a problem. At first, members are not allowed to criticize or judge each other's ideas. One team member records all of the suggestions on a whiteboard or on sheets of newsprint. Creativity and divergent thinking are encouraged. When the team has generated every thinkable solution to the dilemma, then the list is reviewed and the items are grouped by similarity. Each solution is carefully reviewed and considered. The advantages and disadvantages are discussed until the best option is identified.
    Once the team has agreed on a solution, then a detailed action plan is developed. The plan should describe the solution, state the roles and responsibilities of each team member, identify needed resources, establish deadlines, and outline a method for monitoring progress. Team members should commit to following through on the plan.
  3. Implementation: The action plan is carried out.
  4. Monitoring: The plan is monitored, evaluated and modified as needed.

The Big Picture

Kids playing with parachuteWhen building consensus and resolving conflicts, it is important to keep the overall mission and purpose of your team in mind. When the big picture is considered, many seemingly important differences become insignificant. This shift in perspective helps the team focus on what is really important.


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