Posted by Tony Morgan: January 16, 2009

I’m growing more and more convinced that the worst thing an organization can do is try to reach a consenus about something. Think government. Think church committee meetings. Think declining big business.

On the surface, reaching a consensus seems like a positive thing because it means people have agreed to move in the same direction. That’s a good thing isn’t it?

Actually, I’m not convinced that’s the case. For example, here are:

5 Reasons Why Consensus Sucks

  1. It embraces the status quo. Change, whether positive or not, is not human nature. We would prefer for things to remain the way they are today. So, when people get together to discuss the possibility of doing something a little different in the future, it’s normal for the majority to avoid making changes.
  2. It gives the malcontents an equal voice in your decision. Reaching consensus gives everyone a voice at the table. When that happens, even the negative, bitter folks that don’t really embrace the vision have the opportunity to pull the rest of the group away from what could really be the most desirable outcome.
  3. It short circuits the radical ideas that lead to the biggest breakthroughs. The big, bold ideas won’t see the light of day. Yet those are the ideas that could potentially lead to the best innovations. Consensus brings people back to the middle where the majority approves but mediocrity reigns.
  4. It leaves unresolved conflict on the table. At the opposite ends of a decision are distinct opinions which, if left unresolved, could potentially lead to division. Consensus prevents tough conversations from happening. It gives people the freedom to jump to compromise without engaging a healthy debate.
  5. It discourages people from dreaming big dreams. Want to neuter the creative-thinkers and entrepreneurs and visionaries in your organization? Force them to reach consensus with the rest of the crowd. These are the people that make you uncomfortable. They can drive you crazy. That’s OK. They’ll just go work someplace else if you keep forcing them to compromise their dreams.

What do you think? Do you agree? Or, have you actually seen consensus work? What would you add or delete from the list?