Process Guide #2: Building Consensus

When working in a group it is important that all members of the group play a role. While the simple majority rules concept works for our nation, in smaller groups it could leave members feeling slighted or out of the loop. Consensus is a strategy that involves everyone playing a role in the decision making of the group. In order for this to be successful it is important to be open to compromise!

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of consensus is:

  1. a : general agreement b : the judgment arrived at by most or all of those concerned
  2. group solidarity in sentiment and belief


  • Trust each other. This is not a competition; everyone must not be afraid to express their ideas and opinions.

  • Make sure everyone understands the topic/problem. While building a consensus make sure everyone is following, listening to, and understanding each other.

  • All members should contribute their ideas and knowledge related to the subject.

  • Stay on the task. Reference the time management guide for tips.

  • You may disagree, that is OK and healthy. However, you must be flexible and willing to give something up to reach an agreement.

  • Separate the issue from the personalities. This is not a time to disagree just because you don't like someone.

  • Spend some time on this process. Being quick is not a sign of quality. The thought process needs to be drawn out some.


  1. Agree on your objectives for the task/project, expectations, and rules (see guidelines above).

  2. Define the problem or decision to be reached by consensus.

  3. Figure out what must be done to reach a solution.

  4. Brainstorm possible solutions (see Brainstorming Guide).

  5. Discuss pros and cons of the narrowed down list of ideas/solutions.

  6. Adjust, compromise, and fine tune the agreed upon idea/solution so all group members are satisfied with the result.

  7. Make your decision. If a consensus isn't reached, review and/or repeat steps one through six.

  8. Once the decision has been made, act upon what you decided.

This page was designed by Dan McDowell for the Triton and Patterns Projects of San Diego Unified School District. Last updated July 5, 1999.

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