Group Technique

Consensus for endurance

 Good Group Tips


In principle, consensus among the whole group is worth the effort when decisions are intended to transcend generations. Consensus is achieved when every member of the group understands and consents to the same thing. It is much more arduous to make consensus decisions than it is to make majority-rule decisions or executive decisions. However, because they achieve full understanding and consent among all members, consensus decisions are much more likely to last. When there is real consensus about a decision there is no disgruntled minority working to change it later.

For a board of directors deciding its mission, values, or high-level policies — things intended to endure for future generations of board members — taking the time to develop consensus among all members is worth the effort. For deciding what the board will have for lunch — a decision that lasts only through dessert — consensus is not worth the effort.

Practical Tip: For every decision, consider how long it’s expected to last and choose an appropriate decision-making method. Be deliberate about using consensus for some things, majority vote for other things, and delegate the short-order things to individuals. We let individuals make short-term decisions on behalf of the members because we trust they will be in keeping with long-term decisions decided by consensus of all the members.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

Write on the walls

Good Group Tips


In principle, good group decisions stem from shared understanding and shared understanding comes from reading off the same page.

Also, people like to feel heard and when people feel heard it allows the group to move on. A very effective way for someone to feel heard is for their point to get written for everyone to see.

Practical Tip: For every group meeting, have on hand the ability to write words in front of the group. Markers and a flip chart work well or you might use a laptop and projector. There are many creative ways.

When people make comments, paraphrase them on the chart or the screen. The words don’t need to be perfect, but representative of the view expressed.

When it seems like the group is agreeing to something, write words to represent the agreement. Make sure everyone understands and accepts the representative words.

Writing public words that represent viewpoints and agreements is a learned skill and requires focused effort. When done well it leads to shared understanding and individual empowerment — two key building blocks of good group decisions.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

Coalition membership

Good Group Tips


In principle, coalitions are held together by belief in a common cause. Membership is often flexible and responsive to coalition positions.

The strongest coalitions are unanimous in every vote; each member fully supportive of every position. Sometimes a member may stand in the way of the coalition’s desires; called a veto, which is fine once in a great while. Even the strongest coalitions compromise occasionally to hold the group together.

Yet when a member repeatedly blocks or disagrees with others, it’s probably time to adjust the membership of the coalition. Those that don’t agree, consistently, don’t belong.

Practical Tip: Go for “unanimous” on every decision. Publicly support, as a coalition, only those things that each of you support. Use vetoes very sparingly.

Let the edges of membership be defined by the members’ agreements with each other. If you generally agree on what the coalition has done and where it’s headed, stay or join. If you don’t generally agree, leave or don’t join.

Do not let just one or two disagreeable members hold up coalition action over and over again. It’s okay to kick someone out of a coalition because they consistently don’t agree with what everyone else wants to do. And it’s okay to invite new members who are consistently supportive.

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