RE: Consensus and Voting
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Sun, 12 Jan 1997 11:14:05 -0600
In my experience, there are some issues which are not served well by 
consensus. For example, issues of micro-design, where there is no "best" 
answer, only opinions. Example: Color of bathroom tile.  Getting 40 adults to 
pick a color by consensus is not, IMHO, a good use of group time. Better to do 
a priorities vote or some such method.

More importantly, the key is to use the correct decision method for the 
decision at hand, and this be driven by the facililitator. One of the most 
common problems I have observed in troubleshooting meetings for groups is that 
they spend large group time, on issues which are more appropriately done in 
small groups.  Again, the facilitator should scour the meeting agenda, and 
punt obvious small group tasks to a small group, rather than waste everyones 
time with it. If nothing else, break up the group into smaller groups for 10 
minutes then reconvene.

 I sat through a meeting once (not at Sharingwood) where 35 adults were held 
hostage for 35 minutes while three people debated the garden planting plan.  
You could see, feel and almost touch the unrest in the room as the 35 people 
sat bored and uninvolved in a discussion that only 3 people cared about. A 
good facilitator would have captured that right off and formed the 3 people 
into the garden planting task force, to meet later. Instead, the facilitator 
READ A BOOK and ignored the group until the discussion was finalized, at which 
time about half the people had left the meeting.  

This is an extreme example of inappropriate decision method (and very poor 
facilitation) for the decision at hand. I have previously posted lots about 
Sharingwood decision boards, and also written an article for the journal about 
it so I won't reiterate the details, but I would encourage your groups to be 
flexable about using a variety of methods and not get locked into only 
consenus, or only voting, or only large group.

Rob Sandelin

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