Consensus building, collaboration, and decision making

Opinion | Malaysia | 14 Dec 2015 | Asia Samachar |


Projects don’t happen in a vacuum. Working with groups from other agencies and organizations is often required to successfully plan and implement an information technology project. These tools are ways of answering the question, “How can we help work teams function effectively?” Consensus-finding and building tools are often needed to help a team explore different views and conflicting objectives or interests. Teams also frequently need models for collaboration, especially if they have never worked together before.

What are they?

Meeting management methods, ground rules. Effective meeting management involves ground rules, agendas, clear purposes, facilities planning and preparation, careful recording of results, notification of members, and communication.

Methods for conflict resolution. Conflict is a normal part of group work that can result from adversarial relationships, different interests, or both. Techniques for conflict management include diagnosing the causes of the conflict, mediation, negotiation, and problem solving. Mediation involves helping the parties understand the possibilities, communicate effectively, and recognize opportunity for compromise. Negotiation provides a framework for finding a mix of compromises that will resolve the conflict. Well-understood rules and guiding principles can be particularly effective in conflict negotiation.

What are they good for?

Eliciting information, brainstorming. Facilitators often use nominal group process to elicit information from group members. In a nominal group process exercise, the facilitator provides an opportunity for each group member to contribute to the discussion and share ideas. The results can be prioritized by voting methods in which all group members have equal influence on the results. Multi-voting, where each group member can vote for more than one choice or has multiple votes to distribute, can be very effective for complex decisions and help avoid forming factions within a group.

Understanding issues, resolving conflicts. Consensus-building tools are useful in facilitating the two key requirements for reaching agreements in a work group setting: identifying and understanding issues, and resolving conflicts. Some of the tools for identifying and understanding the issues — SWOT analysis, hopes and fears exercises, strategic framework, and stakeholder analysis — are described in this handbook.

Some limitations and considerations

Effective group process takes time. It’s unreasonable to expect new groups to accomplish substantive work immediately. It is usually necessary to invest in building skills, shared understandings, and commitment to the group process.

Vulnerable to disruptive, subversive behavior. Individual members can wreak havoc on a group’s efforts to work collaboratively. Without effective internal controls and norms, such behavior can derail group efforts.

Right people at the table. Good decisions about who is involved in group processes are often critical to success. It’s possible to have too much as well as too little participation. Choosing the most effective group size and composition requires careful consideration of the needs of the group and the participating organizations.


SOURCE: Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany