Consensus means different things to different people – and this can be confusing.
For some, consensus signifies “general agreement.” This vague assertion does not tell us how this alleged agreement was reached or the level of commitment it represents.
Sometimes “consensus” is used as a synonym for “majority vote”. As explained in a previous post, this is NOT how consensus works! In fact no votes are taken when making a decision by consensus.
Others believe that consensus implies a warm, fuzzy state of group harmony. In my experience, groups that use consensus effectively welcome a diversity of opinion, when necessary engage in heated discussions and work hard to discover common ground, if it exists. In short, consensus can be a strenuous process that does not assume pre-existing harmony.
To learn more about what consensus is and how to use it effectively, download IIFAC’s free Guide to Consensus Process.