In principle, consensus generally means that all perspectives are heard and all concerns are addressed, resulting in decisions that all participants can willingly consent to. Many groups aspire to make decisions by consensus but very few have specific protocols in place to guide its implementation. There is no Robert’s Rules of Order for consensus. Groups often plunge ahead resolved to “use consensus” but with few or no structural underpinnings.
Practical Tip: If you are going to use consensus as your official decision-making method, be specific at the outset about what it means. How, specifically, will you make sure that all perspectives are heard, all concerns are addressed, and what steps will be followed when there is a “block?” Once decided, follow your rules with a degree of formality.
Structure and protocol are just as important in consensus decision making as in any other type of decision making. Being casual about the rules just makes a mess.
– Craig Freshley