3, Number 1, Oct 2002
for Reaching Consensus: A Modern Approach to Decision
Steven & Lawson, James R. (1994). Pfeiffer &
by Samantha Spitzer
easy to read, step-by-step guide to reaching consensus
is available for managers and team leaders seeking
to move from individual decision making to collective
for Reaching Consensus: A Modern Approach to Decision-Making,
a book by Steven Saint and James R. Lawson, is intended
as a primer for organizations struggling with the
collective decision making process. According to
of the twenty-first century are evolving... Solo
decision making is giving way to collective decision
making. The manager's role is shifting from making
decisions to empowering others to make decisions.
Those most knowledgeable and closest to the problem
are becoming key to the decision making process.
Due to this shift, manager's new role is to facilitate
collective decision making among diverse individuals
for Reaching Consensus
is divided into six chapters. The breakdown of chapters,
as listed in the introduction to the book, is as
1, 'Collective Decision Making', provides a perspective
on traditional group decision making using democratic,
majority rule. An alternative approach, consensus
decision making, is proposed. Benefits and common
misconceptions about the consensus process are
2, 'Overview of the Consensus Meeting', provides
a big-picture look at consensus-management meetings.
It explains how to conduct the beginning, middle,
and end of meetings, as well as how to define
meeting roles and set an effective agenda.
3, 'Preconsensus Process', discusses who the group
is, what consensus is, and how the group will
4, 'The Consensus Process and Rules', is the how-to
section and includes a step-by-step process and
rules for reaching consensus.
5, 'Tips for Facilitators', provides a number
of techniques for facilitating the consensus process.
6, 'Consensus Management', examines the changing
roles of management and managers in the twenty-first
century. Ideas to foster the spirit and intent
of consensus are included.
Rules for Reaching Consensus is geared toward
businesses with multiple managers and team leaders,
the information is applicable to smaller organizations
such as university departments or student groups.
liked the concise nature of Rules for Reaching
Consensus. At 78 pages, the book is easily read
in one sitting. The information is easy to understand,
the font size is larger than in most books and the
author's use of outlines and flow charts provide
a nice summary of the content. I especially appreciated
the author's use of brevity. Saint and Lawson explain
that consensus works and, in a no-nonsense style,
tell the reader how to incorporate the decision
making process into an organization.
for Reaching Consensus
will probably not be useful for people who already
know a great deal about consensus, or for those
who desire a scholarly explanation of consensus.
I would have liked to read case studies or examples
of how the consensus process was implemented and
used; such content was not found in the Rules
for Reaching Consensus. The book, however, did
provide basic, quick and helpful information. For
a person with little knowledge about consensus,
I came away with a decent understand of the process.
highly recommend Rules for Reaching Consensus
to team leaders who want to empower their team through
collective decision making, and to people who need
to refresh their understanding of how consensus
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Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
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