Try the Consensus Approach for More Effective Meetings

Last Updated Jun 11, 2008 3:43 PM EDT

Think the venerated Robert's Rules of Order are the last word for running meetings? If you're not satisfied that you're getting everyone on the same page, maybe it's time to ditch parliamentary procedure and try a different approach.

Lawrence Susskind, who wrote "Breaking Roberts Rules," says parliamentary procedure can do more harm than good if you're trying to build consensus, by creating an unstable majority decision and leaving behind a dissatisfied minority.

Author and non-profit expert Andy Robinson agrees, noting that all sorts of petty arguments may arise from the ignorance or abuse of Robert's Rules.

The consensus decision-making process is one alternative to the traditional "majority rules" approach. It might seem a little fringe -- it's used by the Quakers and a number of left-of-center groups -- but it's also used for political procedures in countries such as Switzerland and Belgium, so it's not total hoo-hah. The process isn't as rigid as Robert's Rules, so it can flex to fit the occasion. And while it might take more effort to implement, the end result can be worth it: getting everyone on board with a decision and moving forward as a collaborative team.

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for and writes regularly for and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.