Archive for the ‘Consensus’ Category

Consensus + Management Hierarchy = Poor Decision-Making

December 2, 2007

The idea that top-down organizations are oppressive and damaging, and that workers should be given more decision-making power is well-known to managers.

To involve as many employees as possible in the decision-making process, management forms lots of teams and committees, comprised of a variety of workers.

Thus, before a CEO makes any decision, the issue makes its way through each layer of management hierarchy. At each level the issue is vetted by a committee.

Each committee resolves the issue by reaching consensus (lowest common denominator).

As the issue bubbles up through the hierarchy the opinions and ideas become more and more watered-down.  By the time it reaches the CEO there is little innovation or diversity left.

Paradoxically, in trying to make the decision-making process as inclusive as possible, companies actually make top executives more — not less — insulated from the real opinions of the workers.

Layers of management, coupled with a “can’t we all get along” (consensus) attitude is a recipe for poor decision-making at the top.

— Extracted from The Wisdom of Crowds by James Suroweicki

Here is a related blog: Consensus versus Collective Decision-Making

Consensus versus Collective Decision Making

November 30, 2007

From the excellent book Wisdom of Crowds by James Suroweicki:

Collective decision making is often confused with a quest for consensus. But they are different. Here’s how they contrast:

Consensus Collective Decision Making
Encourages lowest-common-denominator solutions which offend no one. Encourages the free exchange of conflicting views, which excites everyone.
Tends to stick with the familiar and squelch provocative debate. Explores the unfamiliar and stimulates provocative debate.
“Can’t we all get along” approach. “Promote diversity” approach.
Watered-down solutions. Innovative solutions.
Keep your real opinions to yourself. Express your real opinions

Consensus Science

July 10, 2007

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus.

Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

– Michael Crichton