Consensus with neophyte group
From: John Major (
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 10:57:41 -0600
On Wed, 20 Dec 1995, Stuart Staniford-Chen wrote:
> I have a couple of queries for you process people out there.  This is 
> actually arising out of a situation at work, but it could easily arise in 
> a cohousing setting, so I am hoping folks won't mind.
> I've agreed to facilitate a lengthy group process (to design a software 
> system actually) by consensus.  I have a fair amount of experience 
> facilitating.  However, the people involved do not have much, if any, 
> experience with consensus.  So that's the first question - what special 
> tactics are needed with a neophyte group?  What do I tell them at the

There is a book that is a fantastic introduction to this topic, for both left-
and right-brained - "Making Meetings Work", the "little yellow book" of many
process hobbyists. I first ran into it in a consensus-run vegetarian
restaurant that my wife started (the Blue Mango, you might know it, Stuart!),
saw it used in a county Arts Plan program, then later used it in two very
straight bizness environments, and now in CoHousing again! So it ha pretty
broad appeal. For software geeks (I'm one m'se'f) and academics, it makes a
convincing left-brained case for why you would want to do this, and how.

Katy McCammant (oog, I think I got that wrong... sorry, Katy!) had a great
phrase that she used when she was doing her whizzy facilitation during our

"Remember, consensus is NOT about getting people to agree with you - it's
about seeing what you can live with.."

And, I might add, how much you can trust, and be trusted - that's why
consensus failed to work well at the Blue Mango, where workers could block
consensus one day, then have moved out of town the next - and why it works
well in CoHousing - living with folks, you learn ALL about their character,
eh? I'm surprised at how far I can trust folks, and we're not even moved in

Well, I'm running off at the keyboard - it looks like I'd better take all this
to consensus-l, eh? Where did you say it was, Stuart?    ;-)

John Major
Wasatch CoHousing
jmajor [at]

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