Today’s Prime is number 8 – Consensus.

Basically Chris Mc Goff’s Prime on consensus says that people don’t need to agree on everything.  It is not important that everyone support every initiative.  It is however important the they feel the process was fair and that their input or concerns were heard.  When Carol and I used to teach at the U of L we taught a five-finger consensus model.  If you made a fist then it was a no go and a ONE fist in a group, no matter what size meant that the project or idea had failed.  A one finger vote meant you still had reservations.  A two finger vote said you were not violently opposed but not willing to support yet.  Three fingers meant you were okay with it.  Four meant you might even help with the project and five meant you were all in.  this kind of system was very effective in having people make important decisions TOGETHER.  Not everyone is a five-finger voter but if you can agree that if everyone gets to three through open dialogue and addressing the concerns that would keep them from getting to three then you have something with enough support to move forward.  Clear definitions about what each vote means are crucial and time to deal with resistance is also crucial.

Once we moved to stop lights – one red light shut down the project.  One yellow meant more discussion and Greens where a Go sign.  The key to this idea of consensus and what makes it consensual is that “the process was explicit, rational and fair” according to Mc Goff.  Using this system people feel as if their input is heard and that they are treated well in the process and so they can live with the outcome and are committed to supporting the outcomes with their stated reservations.  Consensus does not mean everyone agrees with everything but the process allows for the reservations to be put on the table and examined BEFORE the project goes forward so that the project begins in an informed manner.  When there is no consensus building at the beginning of a project then the reservations come up “out of the blue” and people are surprised and they could jeopardize the project. So the process of building consensus is important AND you can use the PULSE Frame to do it.

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