Use Data to Gain Consensus

data consensusThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “consensus” as the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned. This creates what is referred to as “High agreement.” When we as a group of people have high agreement, we can accomplish amazing things. The seemingly impossible becomes possible. Collective intelligence will usually outperform individual intelligence by a large margin.

As an example; each morning over one hundred million people drive to work in Canada and the U.S. with few accidents. We accomplish this by having high agreement on the rules road.

The best way to get consensus with any group is by presenting good data that all can understand. The data creates information that guides decision making. It gives us confidence and security. It provides us with a higher level of control.


Let’s say there is a group of us living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and we want to drive to Edmonton for dinner. There are six of us. We rent a large van and decide to drive South to Edmonton. We choose to drive South because we are not sure which way to go and the most dominant “A-type” people in the group say we should go South.

Jamie shows up a little late and hears about the plan of heading South. Pulling out a map he just happened to have on him, (Jamie is prepared like that) he shows the group that they need to travel North to get to Edmonton, not South. All look at the map (Information) and with no arguing, consensus is achieved to drive North. That is the power of data for achieving consensus, no arguing. Real data takes personalities out of the equation.


When a group can harness the collective energy of each member and focus it on a single objective, they have synergy. This can only be achieved by having good information that is used to guide the group. Synergy is a byproduct of consensus. Without precise data to go by, synergy won’t be achieved. Opinions and best guesses fragment the group and zap energy and momentum.

The greatest resource any business possesses is the collective intelligence and skill of its employees. Great leaders do not come up with the best ideas. They surround themselves with good people and cultivate an environment that encourages good ideas. Like good soil is needed for healthy plants, we need a healthy work environment to engage employees and grow great ideas.

Gaining Consensus

If I were to walk into your business and ask an employee; “What is the most important goal of this business?” Would all your staff give me the same answer? Would they have an answer? This is where consensus should begin. The idea is to create focus. We need all efforts throughout an organization to support the primary goal. In lean manufacturing circles, this is referred to as “Hoshin Planning.”

When everyone in an organization understands the primary goal, they can focus efforts. Any activity that does not support the goal should be scrutinized. We want all our birds flying in the same direction. Even if it’s the wrong direction; this can be corrected. Just use your data (remember the map for finding Edmonton)

It’s in our human nature to want to succeed at what we do. We want to win the game. We want success at work. It leads to security and boosts our sense of well-being. It’s up to management to guide and support. Smart managers know they must provide:

  1. The goals
  2. Resources and support
  3. Recognition and celebrate successes

When these three components are in place, we create a business operating like a high-performance engine. We will leave our competition in the dust. It begins with the goal and gaining consensus, supported by good data.

Data is the fuel that runs our business engine. It creates energy and focuses organizational efforts. It builds consensus, leading to high agreement.