Consensus Decision Making Book

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There is always tremendous potential for people to work together well. All we need is a process that is both participatory and effective. Making decisions together is a vital part of almost any group. We may come together to form a family, to connect recreationally, to operate a business or nonprofit organization or to collaborate in some form of community project or governance. Whatever the reason for gathering, a group must somehow make decisions. These decisions determine how it will accomplish its goals. So the effectiveness of any group rests upon its ability to make decisions well.

Too often, however, a poor decision-making process spoils a group's effectiveness. Unconscious patterns of exclusion, domination, apathy, manipulation, passive coercion or other problematic behaviors often emerge. The decisions the group makes suffer, as does the group's enjoyment of the process.

Fortunately, the art of guiding groups through decision-making has made great progress over the past several decades. There are now ways to make decisions in groups that are both efficient and enjoyable for all participants. The Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making model (CODM) incorporates these advances into a simple, stepwise model. Work groups, organizations, social groups and even families can employ this model and reap the rewards that effective group cooperation can bring.

CODM combines the two goals of maximum participation and maximum efficiency. Group members can use this process to come up with better solutions than any individual group member could have formulated. And they can do it in a way that respects and includes everyone in the group. Increased collaboration gives participants an increased sense of ownership and a stronger commitment to effective implementation. Group members both feel good that their needs were included in the decision, and they feel a stronger investment in helping ensure the success of the decision. At the same time, however, CODM recognizes that groups need to be able to produce decisions efficiently, so as not to burden the members with long meetings or stagnant progress on popular ideas.

CODM was developed through years of personal and professional experience facilitating groups. It is based on the most successful principles and practices from the field of professional group facilitation. In addition, it draws powerful contributions from the fields of mediation and interpersonal communication. Combining the best thinking from these three different fields means CODM can help a group make better decisions in a way that simultaneously helps the group itself grow closer, stronger and more cohesive.

The CODM process can be used to generate widespread agreement in any group. Whether decisions are finalized by unanimous consent, by a vote or by the ruling of a person-in-charge, CODM can assist the process and improve the result. This flexibility makes CODM applicable in both hierarchical and egalitarian organizations. Whenever widespread agreement is the goal, CODM can be used to reach for it.

Other websites of Tim Hartnett: ConsensusBook, ConsensusBlog, ConsensusDecisions, Santa Cruz Therapist, Meeting Facilitation

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