When Consensus Ends in a No Decision

One stakeholder needs better results now. Those better results will require changes that endanger other, equally important goals and initiatives. Both of the stakeholders are right to want what they want, and neither is being unreasonable or short-sighted.

A single stakeholder has a relationship with a supplier. Even though this supplier doesn’t do the work the rest of the organization needs, they are indispensable to the one stakeholder. The rest of the organization needs a new partner, and none of the parties involved are irrational by wanting what they want.

A group of people have decided to explore changing something and have begun meeting with salespeople who they believe can help them solve their problems. They have met with four different groups. Half of the group likes the first group they met with, and the other half doesn’t support any of them because they lack the confidence to move forward.

A company puts together a task force to evaluate potential suppliers for something strategic enough to need a task force. One of the groups presented a solution that makes perfect sense to half the people involved charged with the decision. Another group has a new and novel solution that, while mostly untested, makes sense to most of the other half of the team deciding.

In many cases, scenarios like the ones above will end in a “no decision,” which is the same effect as a decision to tell you “no.” It may mean that you weren’t effective enough to build consensus with the group of people you tried to help make the change they wanted. It might also mean that the group dynamic is such that no one wants to do anything that causes someone else to feel like they didn’t get what they wanted. There are some groups who feel that consensus requires everyone agree to the decision.

Sometimes when reasonable people disagree, they decide to nothing, even when it is the wrong thing to do, even when it doesn’t serve them, and even when it puts their future at risk.

Filed under: Building Consensus

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