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Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)

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Consensus decision-making has a number of advantages over other approaches. The time necessary to reach a decision by consensus will be greater than the time a self-sufficient decision-maker will take. However, over the long run the consensus approach will save time. The 9/1 decision maker finds herself making the same decisions over and over while a decision made by consensus will tend to stand up over time. Moreover, once a group has established a pattern of consensus decision- making, its members often find that decisions made later come quicker and easier. Once a decision is made by consensus, of course, its implementation is assured, while decisions reached on a 9/1 basis have no such group commitment behind them. Even decisions reached by a majority vote may be difficult to implement, for the assumption that the minority, once voted down, will cheerfully support the majority position is often dubious. Finally, because a group that uses consensus to make decisions is one that is aware of its own process, only it can learn from experience. 9/1 decision-makers are constantly engaged in power struggles, 5/5 decision-makers in developing majority support; each new decision is a new power struggle, a new vote.

Consensus decision-making is difficult and, initially, time consuming; but its results, in the long run, are worth the effort. Moreover, it can be learned. This is a critical, appreciative assumption regarding the skills and motives of group members. If decision-makers and decision-making groups genuinely wish to become more effective, they can become aware of their own processes and can find in consensus decision-making a viable alternative to other patterns.

The Task-Method-Relationship (TMR) Model

A group of individuals convened to accomplish a specific task must fully appreciative the complexity of their own dynamics. In addition to completing the task, group members must successfully address themselves to issues in the group that at first may seem unrelated to the task or decision at hand. These concerns may be seen as internal to the group’s functioning, as distinct from those associated with accomplishing the task, which may seem unrelated to the task. Two kinds of issues may develop in a task group: those which focus on the method the group uses to work at the task and those which emerge from and are related to group process and interpersonal relations. To function effectively at performing the demands of the convening task and to reach effective decisions concerning that task, a group also must also come to appreciate and deal successfully on a continuing basis with the method and process issues associated with the task.

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