“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

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.