Five Steps to build Consensus in a Team

Project-MANAGEMENT means to take a lot of decisions on the way. Most of them within the core team of the project. Lonely decisions by the project manager add up in getting into trouble. Nobody enganges when it comes to execution. But there are ways to reach good and widely accepted decisions in a team.

It's only five steps to take decisions that make you sure they are built on the intentions of the whole team and therefore will come into effect. Theses five steps to build consensus have one specific pecularity: They work only on top of each other. Every time you have problems in getting to sound results in one step, be sure the step before had not been done very well.

Let us take a careful look at each of these steps, the devil is in the details. Therefore it is important to know which activities are helpful in each of the steps, which are typical traps and which lead to omissions that bear negative consequences for the following steps.

1. Exact Identification of the Problem

very often we start too fast with problem solving without having understood the problem in detail and without having all the relevant information collected.. It will take some time to find out what exactly the problem or problems might be.

  • Helpers: Talkt to every single team member to get as much information as possible about the problem and it's aspects. Tage care that every relevant piece of information is on the table.Give room for exchange of views and discussion.
  • Traps: The assumtion that the problem is simple and clear. An abstract and distant handling of the problem withot detailed assessment in what way the problem is important to the team.
  • Omissions: If a team delegates this job to the same people every time without careful consideration.

2. Developing various Solutions

From the moment the problem is really clear to everybody in the team you will need different ideas for sulution, as many as possible. The more the better. Only one possibility is nothing, two are a dilemma, the freedom of choice starts with three alternatives.

  • Helpers: Record very ingle idea on paper or chart. Also include ideas that sound some kind of strange in the beginning. Later on, in combining aspects, they might be helpful. If this tep turns out to be difficult, most likely not all the important information is on the table. Tage care oof open discussions and alloe time to silently think about things.
  • Traps: Only a few ideas with a strong will to proceed. Stop this, you have to go back one step, information is missing. There is a lack of experience with this area in the team, try to integrate some external expertise. If the team is tto big for focused work, build sub-teams. Too little attention for the social aspects of teamwork, support the wallflowers, support open discussions, stop judgings. If the team concentrates on only two alternatives, start a brainstorming to find at least two more..
  • Omission: If the project manager wants to commit the team to different aspects of a solution he already decided upon.

3. Screening and assessing the submitted Solutions

This step is about discussing the different pros and cons of the suggested solutions and analyse the suggestions in detail. Now it is a big advantage if you can choose between a large number of different ideas. While analysing themiIn most of the cases you will detect that different approaches can be combined to an ever better solution in the end. But the first task of this step is to fix the decision criteria beforehand, before you start to analyse the ideas.

  • Helpers: Free expressions of opinions and feelings. Additional involvement of experts. Summing up and reviewing of all the different suggestions.
  • Traps: Incomplete information, go back to start. Hasty acclamation of a winning idea, stop that! Single team members protect and defend their ideas insistantly, return the decision criteria to mind. Too little attention on the social aspects of teamwork, now you need all the different perspectives, opinions and experience. Re-integrate also the silent team mambers actively.
  • Omission: If the influence of the leader or single team members hinders the team to carefully assess the odeas of the others.

4. Committing to one Solution

Now as it gets down to business it should  not be too hard to develop a solution. Does everybody remember the decision criteria? Are they clear enough? Are all the alternatives with their resoective pros and cons well known? Maybe you will need some additional negotiations to reach a broad agreement.

  • Helpers: Free expression of opinions and feelings by all the team members. No fear of fair arguments. Fixing of an agenda you can stick to. Periodic summaries of the discussion. Do not forget to recheck the consent in the end.
  • Traps: Too little reviewing of the ideas, guarentee a open and fair discussion. Lack of clarity about the consequences of the decision, include this in the discussions. Persons are fully identified with specific solutions, have a break and remember the decision criteria. No recheck whether there is factual consent, in teams the rule is: "Silence does not give consent."
  • Omissions: Endless discussions with a lot of "if" and "but" arguments, without coming to a decision.

5. Planning and carrying out

Never close the meeting without having planned the execution of your decision. The next steps have to be very clear, dates appointed and responsibilities fixed. It's good practice also to plan regular reviews of the implementation.

  • Helpers: Obtain specific feed back. Reports by reviewers and experts. Feed back forms and regular dates for reviews. Constant rethinking based on the collected information.
  • Traps: If there is no congruence in planning you have to go back one step. If the consequences of the selected solotion have not analyzed propperly then the plan of the implemetation will be unrealistic, at the best. Do not allow only one person being responsible for the entire execution.
  • Omission: If nobody takes responsibility for the implementation of the decision, although there had been a decision.