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Confused About Consensus Decision Making

Our non-profit organization has agreed that all of our decisions will be made using a consensus process. However, we have a statement in our bylaws that states we will use a majority rule of 2/3 of our board members if consensus cannot be reached. The method we use is at the discretion of the chair. Is this correct to put both types of decision making in our by laws?

The Team Doc Says…

Most groups struggle with this very same issue. It is okay to have both types of decision-making methods defined for your group. I recommend that the decision-making method be determined by the group prior to making the decision.

In other words, decide how to decide, before deciding.

Allowing the decision-making method to be at the discretion of one person is risky due to different tolerance levels and experience.

Consensus should be used for those types of decisions that impact and are critical to the entire group. Decisions such as strategy, direction, etc. And remember, consensus is not 100 percent agreement. Consensus means that each person has had the opportunity to share their perspective and can support the final decision (even though it may not be their personal choice).

Consensus decision-making is not easy, but the rewards you will reap from a group perspective are priceless.

A key issue to remember when you use majority rule in decision-making – if you use a 2/3 vote that means that there is still 1/3 of your group that doesn't buy into the decision. Not a good thing!

Best regards,

Denise O'Berry
aka ‘Team Doc'

About Denise O'Berry

Denise O'Berry is President of The Small Business Edge Corp, a small business consulting firm. A small business owner since 1996, Denise understands the challenges facing small business. She's lived them herself and helped hundreds of clients work through the frustrations, fears, and joys of owning a small business. Denise is the author of Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success, a practical guide about keeping the cash in your business - where it belongs. Find more resources and tips at deniseoberry.com and askteamdoc.com