Can consensus really be E-A-S-Y?

“What about consensus decision-making in hierarchical organisations?”. It’s a question that comes up regularly.

Most of my work around consensus decision-making is in grassroots, flat structured organisations. And that seems to be the natural home of consensus because of the anti-hierarchical values that thrive in that setting. But it’d be foolish to close our eyes to the fact that consensus, and the desire to work by consensus, exist elsewhere. There are hundreds of management consultancies that deliver training in consensus, for example. But is it the same thing we talk about on this blog, a close relation, or something very different?

Then today I read Learning Tree International’s ‘Perspectives on Project Management’ blog, lured in by the title How to Use the E-A-S-Y Approach to Consensus Decision Making. It’s a short and surprisingly good post (surprising only because of my prejudices that we activists have the monopoly on consensus).

Why the E-A-S-Y approach? Here’s a snippet:

An effective way to reach consensus is to use the E-A-S-Y approach:

  • Elicit comments or explanations (oral and written) from all team members
  • Ask  open-ended questions (what, where, when, which, who, how, why) about the topic
  • State the obvious – summarize . . . write it down
  • Your opinion as the project leader is important, but is not likely to be as important as the collective wisdom of the project team.