Consensus Gone Bad

By Maria Forbes
October 7, 2015

A common method of decision making referred to as group think, brings a team to a cohesive method of thinking through problem solving. It is the practice of approaching problems by consensus of a group. If everyone on the team envisions a similar method of operation, then the process moves faster, more efficiently and the team has a shared method of performance. While group think sounds like a winning method for bridging decision making gaps between team members, there are inherent problems with this manner of collaboration.
Conformity is not always best
As a leader in her organization, Betsy was pressed to gain a common perspective of business challenges, to rally her team‘s efforts around a common approach. At first, Betsy felt the ease of a common approach. Sharing her viewpoint and method of operation to solve challenges and work toward broad team goals felt right to her. Her team complied and for one year, they pushed through and met their goals.
Eventually the group think methodology took a toll on Betsy’s team. Some members found the shared approach to be fairly natural and these members had little to no problem working according to Betsy’s methods. Others were not so lucky. They were exhausted; feeling drained every day, as they worked against their natural problem solving methods in order to comply with Betsy’s mandate for consensus. This year performance is declining and team members are clearly not enthusiastic about their work. Betsy is wondering what happened and how she can get her team back on track.
Bringing the team back
Lack of freedom to engage individual creativity was killing the spirit and motivation of half the team. Group think made it easy for Betsy to manage team efforts, but over the course of a year it became a smoke shield, screening the personal frustrations of several key team members as they pushed forward. Group think, as an approach to problem solving, assumes that everyone involved has the same natural method of executing a goal. This assumption is dangerous.
Group think can be productive as an overlay, a cultural approach to conducting business. As a shared method of execution, group think can be disastrous. It generates a lack of personal responsibility, since no one member is accountable to part of the outcome; it is shared by the entire team. Once Betsy was introduced to the instinctive problem solving methods of each member of her team, and dialogue was opened, as to how they each would naturally make a personal contribution to team goals, it was as if the sun finally came out for this team!
Today Betsy illustrates a shared vision for achieving her team’s goals. She also relies on her team to create personal agenda’s toward achieving it. The team members feel their contributions are recognizable and knowledge of their problem solving strengths, combined with skills and experience, generates mutual respect for personal contributions and enables the team to arrange collaborations that are meeting the goals.
A shared vision captures a common goal and helps to focus individual agenda’s toward efforts that make a true contribution to the goal. Betsy was introduced to Shared Vision as a method for gaining group perspective without removing individual creativity. Performance is on the rise because Betsy’s team members can engage their strengths!
If you would like to explore the paths to improved performance for you and your team, or just align goals in the best and most positive way, contact us at FIREPOWER Teams – we are here to help!

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