Seeking consensus @ all cost ?

27 04 2010

Strength in Numbers Managing a team or a project can be really harsh when conflicts arise between the members. It is quite certainly part of the normal lifecycle of any project, and managers usually expect to face one or more in their career. Yet the question comes in to decide whether or not to seek consensus between the parties. Back in 1999 already, Cornell (1) had issued a study that showed managers when to use consensus decision-making, and when it won’t work. “Consensus decision making has its place, since it results in greater satisfaction and acceptance among group members. But it doesn’t work when members have fundamental differences”, Peterson says in his article.

Let us exagerate for some time. To what extent could we consider that systematic consensus seeking paves the way to open conflict? Our surroundings are rich with examples of cases where efforts towards achieving conciliation appear – posterior to the case – not the right approach. In January 2009, Co-Director of the Campaign for America’s Future Robert L. Borosage commented on “The Price of Consensus: Obama and Congressional Republicans” (2). Borosage argues that inviting political opponents (Republicans) to the table when “swift and bold action” is required, “insures only one thing – delay”. On a different topic, there are numerous blogs from American fellows kinda frustrated by Obama’s approach, as on the Afghanistan case. Carl Nyberg has an excellent article on this (3).

N26FabiusCunctatorOur history as well. Father reminded me of Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (4) aka Cunctactor (“Delayer”), famous for his tactics in deploying his troops and avoiding battles. For doing so, he was also called a sheep by his very own opponents.

The question might really be different. What compromises are we ready to accept to achieve consensus? Do we really need to try everything to reach this goal? Aren’t we generating more difficulties by exploring all options and therefore delaying the decision?

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