[Springboard] Salmon: Consensus Method

Bill Salmon wsalmon at cox.net
Fri Nov 9 12:22:59 EST 2007

    The way I've used consensus in large groups of diverse points of view is 
1) first to brain storm as many ideas are is possible to drain the swamp. 2) 
second, this material is grouped or gestalted like (theme) groups, and 3) to 
have the group name the reality, or to assign a number of people to name the 
reality, in three word statements with a gerund, adjective, and noun.
    The group mind is operative during the grouping and the naming. This 
step always reveals something new.
    Usually, my next step is to re-organize this information into a 
"prioritize chart." Then, the group is asked to name this material into 
categories as I build a "rational chart."
    This process is pretty much what the E.I./ICA used over the years. My 
guess is Weigle and others have a more profound practice in organizing this 
material, but I can testify that every year I do numerous Year Plans of 
Miistry, and well as Yearly Business Models.
     In the context of the church, this is where the Holy Spirit is working. 
Also, it is where the Demon works to convince people this step is not 
    The next step is to built an Implementation model. The weak link is in 
implementation. Always I have the group self-assign a "hard nose" whose task 
is to keep the plan in operation. I schedule myself in to visit the 
organization at least twice during the year to solve problems, make 
corrections to the model, and to cheer lead.
    Bill Salmon

    ----- Original Message ----- 
From: <david442 at cox.net>
To: <springboard at wedgeblade.net>
Sent: Friday, November 09, 2007 10:43 AM
Subject: [Springboard] Consensus Method

> I followed with great interest the comments on the consensus method taking 
> place on the list serves and what Jeanette pulled together.  What a rich 
> journey we’ve all been taking in how this decision making process has 
> evolved!!!!
> I drew two conclusions:  1)  there’s no set down in stone “consensus 
> method” as practiced by the Order: Ecumenical.  And 2) all of our group 
> methods grew out of and embody our best wisdom on how a group of people, 
> large or small, arrives at a decision about some aspect of its life 
> together and its future.
> I also went to the Golden Pathways CD-ROM.  I did find an article in the 
> index:  Methods:  Consensus Method.  However, that appears to be a talk 
> given by Joe Mathews mostly about what he saw at the time (it doesn’t say 
> when) the Order needed to be doing.  The opening paragraph does give a 
> hint or two about what our method was – something about the Panjayat needs 
> to “inject its symbolism into the next council and declare XX needs to be 
> done.”  Interesting, don’t you think?
> The article also refers to the Taize Community in France and its Rule as 
> to the origins of our consensus method.  However, when I consulted their 
> website I was unable to read their Rule nor able to get a sense of how 
> they make decisions.
> Soooooo…..I was thrown back to my own memory.  In several occasions I 
> remember us forming a decision that we acted upon by “consensus”.  As Pat 
> and I talked several components of the process came out when formally 
> applied as such. # 1. We began with the assumption and realization that 
> there is something called a “group mind”.  This meant that any group that 
> gathers in some sense or another has a group mind already formed about 
> what needs to be done, even if its only about what color to paint the 
> toilet seats.  The article on the Golden Pathways refers to bigger 
> decisions, like whether it was time to take our programs and offices into 
> Eastern Europe – a real biggy.
> #2 Once you make that assumption then you ask that someone say, “Our 
> consensus is …..”  and spell out in some detail a model for doing X, Y or 
> Z.  Then, if anyone objects to that consensus, that someone needs to say, 
> “No,  the consensus (our group mind) is …..”  I believe only a few of us 
> were able to pick up on this group mind business.   And very few of us 
> ever got very skilled at “reading” a group mind.
> Some helpful steps Pat & I remembered feed into this process.  Once a 
> model or plan is presented you first ask for questions of clarity.  This 
> usually fleshed out the plan more completely.  Then, you also ask once 
> everyone is clear about the plan as presented, does anyone have any 
> concerns about this plan?  Once these are heard then someone in the group 
> is able to say, “The consensus is ….” In that statement you were trying to 
> give a more inclusive statement of the group mind.  You couldn’t simply 
> state your own personal opinion as such.  We will paint the toilet seats 
> red and leave the handles silver.  Or “yes we’ll send a team to set up a 
> house in Vienna.”
> I got into this discussion because I’ve been asked to lead a session with 
> a group in my local church next Monday evening.  The plan is to start a 
> Wednesday evening service on a regular basis.  So if anyone has some 
> wisdom on the best way to facilitate such a meeting, I’d appreciate your 
> input.  But soon.  The idea is to begin training our church and its 
> working teams or committees on making decisions by consensus since that is 
> in our by-laws as the way we will make decisions.
> David McCleskey
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