Organizational Consultation XXIII: Empowerment (Part Three)
Huber’s fifth guideline concerns a focus on agreement in the group about the reasonableness of the reasoning rather then on agreement about the choice itself. He suggests three tactics. From the start, have the group agree on how it will ultimately make its choice. Second, have the group agree to be satisfied with the situation where all members understand the reasoning that leads to the group choice. Third, according to Huber, the leader or facilitator of an effectively functioning group should obtain an explicit indication that each group member understands the prevailing reasoning.
This final guideline is particularly important for a group that wishes to be appreciative and arrive at consensus. Consensus decision-making does not require that there is agreement among all group members that a specific decision is the best that can be made—this is unanimity. Rather, consensus decision-making requires that each member of the group feels comfortable that her opinion has been heard and understood by other group members and that her opinion was taken into account when the final decision was made. Consensus decision-making also requires that each member of the group be aware of and understand the factors that were taken into consideration when the final decision was made—even if some members do not accept all of these factors as valid.
The basic guidelines that have been offered by Huber provide an entry into the more detailed descriptions of empowerment that I have offered in this series of essays. I turn now to a consideration of the group development stages that necessarily modify the general guidelines just been offered. Group development stages define ways in which members of a group can come to fully appreciate the complex dynamics of their group and appreciative ways in which they can effectively share leadership in directing their group toward successful completion of its assigned task.
Stages of Group Development
As anyone who has worked within groups knows, these dynamic systems change over time. The behavior of a group, and of the individuals who compose the group, are different at different stages of the group’s existence. We behave differently in groups that have just been formed than we do in groups that have been in existence for several weeks or months; groups function differently when they are just getting started than they do when and if they settle into a smooth routine. The engagement of appreciation in a group context begins with an understanding and acceptance of the inevitable shifts that occur in the thoughts and processes of group members.