“We use consensus… but vote if we can’t agree”

consensus imageMany non-profits I work with claim they make decisions using consensus… “unless we can’t agree and need to move on, then we vote.”

If this sounds like your group, then you are not really using consensus decision-making; you are using majority rule and should clarify that in any decision-making policies and procedures.

In other words, the decision-making approach a group ends up applying when faced with its toughest decisions is the actual model they are using.Continue reading

A Good Question!

Crafting a question for a gathering to explore isn’t as simple as it might sound.

I strive to find a question (or two) that will help participants explore the depth of their topic, a question that will get at the collective wisdom of the gathering, a question that challenges people to think differently. Ideally, I am able to work with a planning group to come up with a question that will do just that.

The easy part is to make sure the question is open-ended, meaning it invites more than “yes” or “no” response. The goal is to elicit a thoughtful response that delves beyond the obvious.

The question also needs to be genuine–something that is truly intended to unveil new answers. If everyone who is part of the conversation is offering the same answer, then the question is not doing its job of spurring people to go deeper.Continue reading

Final Stepping Stones: Structure, Practice, and Harvest

In two previous postings, I began discussing “The Chaordic Stepping Stones” developed by Chris Corrigan. I described the six of nine stepping stones: need; purpose; principles; people; concept; and limiting beliefs.

This posting discusses the last three steps which offer the opportunity to start adding colour and texture to the general shape that has been taking form.


This stage involves building on the concept, discussed earlier, and adding the details needed to give it life. Discussions about the structure are discussions about time, money, energy, and commitment.Continue reading

Middle Stepping Stones: People, Concept, and Limiting Beliefs

In my last posting, I referred to a guide for planning I have been using in the last couple of years: “The Chaordic Stepping Stones” developed by Chris Corrigan. In that earlier posting, I described the first three of nine stepping stones: need; purpose; and principles.

This posting outlines the middle three stepping stones: people; concept; and limiting beliefs. As noted before, each step involves asking  questions that will help people fully explore issues related to that stage of planning. Additionally, each step should be discussed in order when planning a new initiative or perhaps looking at revising an old one.


Some people connected to your initiative might be core to its planning and implementation; others might be the people you want to draw into the circle or to reach out to. In this stage of planning, you can create a map of your current and desired network of people.Continue reading

First Stepping Stones: Need, Purpose, Principles

It has been two years since I participated in the “Art of Hosting” workshop on Vancouver Island, an event that provided new inspiration, ideas and tools.

One tool I have come to appreciate time and time again is Chris Corrigan’s “Chaordic Stepping Stones”. (Chaordic refers to a system that is simultaneously chaotic and orderly).

In Chris’ words, “These steps are intended to create generative structures, structures that allow us to create together, without stifling creativity and the emergence of new ideas and new ways of doing things.”

Whether you are someone wanting to convene a meetings or launch a new initiative, the nine chaordic stepping stones lead people through a series of questions. These questions can help to evoke fresh perspectives on how you might create enough order in your process for it to function while will providing enough space for chaos and the creativity and depth it can generate. Continue reading

Polishing stones

In his book “Power and Love”, Adam Kahane talks about the importance of creating a strong ‘container’ that will serve to draw out the collective intelligence of a group.  Kahane quotes Crane Stookey’s metaphor of a stone polisher:

“The image that best describes this principle is the stone polisher, the can that turns and tumbles the rocks we found at the beach until they turn into gems. The rocks don’t get out until they’re done, the friction between them, the chaos of their movement, is what polishes them, and in the end the process reveals their natural inherent brilliance. We don’t paint colours on them, we trust what’s there.” (p. 92)

For me, this quote highlights the facilitator’s role of focusing on the structure and process of a meeting and trusting that the participants have the knowledge and wisdom needed to move forward. It also emphasizes the value of ensuring a diversity of participants–with diverse and potentially conflicting views–as each is a beach rock that can add richness and colour to the final outcomes.