What is Consensus Building?
Consensus building is a process involving a good-faith effort to meet the interests of all stakeholders and seek a unanimous agreement.
A consensus building approach allows groups to reach an overwhelming agreement among relevant stakeholders and maximize possible gains to everyone.
But ever since U.S. general Henry M. Robert published Robert’s Rules of Order in 1876, groups have relied on the principle of majority rule, measured with a simple yea or nay vote at the end of the negotiation process.
Majority rule appeals to our innate sense of fairness and prevents a vocal minority from overpowering the majority. But when negotiators know they will end up either winners (in the majority) or losers (in the minority), they may overlook the value of consensus building and searching for the best possible outcome for all parties.
Groups that focus on making decisions through consensus building tend to reach agreements that are more stable, more efficient, and wiser than groups that make decisions through majority rule.
There are five essential steps for consensus building in your group negotiations:
1. Include the right people and set expectations. Take time to assess who will be affected by a deal. Ensure that those present have a solid understanding of the substance and context of the negotiation.
2. Assign roles and responsibilities. Negotiate the ground rules that will govern your problem-solving effort and assign responsibilities.
3. Engage in group problem solving. The group aims to craft a “single text” package that meets everyone’s needs before seeking firm commitments.
4. Reach agreement. Maintain effective communication and build strong relationships.
5. Hold people to their commitments. Because surprises are inevitable, implementation is often the hardest stage in any negotiation.
Discover more about consensus building in this free special report, Dealmaking: Secrets of Successful Dealmaking in Business Negotiations, from Harvard Law School.
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