Byron's Babbles

Consensus To Implementation

consensusI received an email a couple of days ago from Kris Amundson, Executive Director of the National Association of State Boards of Education posing the question: is consensus even possible in today’s polarized environment? The question gave me pause and is something I have thought about in the context of partisanship and in the context of boards I am a part of. My immediate reaction was to say, “sure.” Particularly because of my own experience when asking Indiana Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma, what success would look like in his eyes after appointing me to the Indiana State Board of Education. His answer was, “Consensus to implementation.” This was a very powerful statement and one I have reflected on a great deal and have tried to live. In fact I have included thoughts on consensus in other blog posts. Click here to read “Civilized Disdain Vs. Political Correctness.” You can also click here to read “The Sheer Guts of Leadership.”declaration-of-independence2-art

Now, back to the question at hand: is consensus possible? I sure hope so! Within every member of any group there is a lifetime of experiences and knowledge. Consensus is a way to tap the collective knowledge of the group to craft the best decisions possible. I get concerned when everyone wants to argue that we have become polarized because of partisan beliefs. I still firmly believe that these partisan beliefs are what get us to greatness. Where would our country be today had our founding fathers not had the heated debates/arguments about the framing of our democracy. In the end they reached consensus and implemented. The problem is when we let our own beliefs polarize us from truly listening to others’ perspectives, and a lack of willingness to share our own perspectives. We must also have the humility to understand that our own ideas may not be the best ones.

Furthermore, as we study consensus, it is important to remember that consensus is not unanimous agreement. Group members may consent to a decision, or part of a plan they disagree with, but recognize the consented upon decision best meets the needs of the group or organization, and therefore give permission to it. The key here is a commitment by each individual to honor the best interests of the group. In fact I have adopted the idea of “consensus to implementation” as one of my core values. I would submit that every person, organization, and government should do the same.CKwjybCWIAATbXn

Using the core value of “consensus to implementation” allows a cooperative interest, where members are willing to work together to find the solution that meets the needs of the group. Consensus allows us to work together and create the best solution. Relationships matter when using consensus. Group members then hold each other accountable to then begin implementation upon reaching consensus.

Here are the keys to practicing in a culture of consensus, as I see it:

  • Effective listening
  • Humility
  • Respect for others’ opinions
  • Not using a right or wrong judgmental mindset of everything
  • Be prepared explain your own views
  • Put the group’s best interest ahead of your own
  • Be visionary
  • Welcome feedback
  • Work to understand others’ opinions and beliefs
  • Share your individual expertise

The fundamental idea of consensus is for all people to be able to express themselves in their own words and of their own free will. Consensus assures all can speak and be heard. I would argue that when we say consensus is not happening, or even possible at all, it is because we are really practicing coercion, trade-offs, and being self serving. Consensus allows us to develop creative alternatives, transforming alternatives, and compromise with synthesis.

So, do you agree with me when I say consensus is still possible? As for me, I will continue to work for “consensus to implementation.”




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  1. Better Implementation! | Byron's Babbles said, on January 30, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    […] I wrote “Consensus to Implementation.” In that blog post I focused on consensus. Click here to read the post. For this post I want to focus on the implementation piece. So, here is my […]


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