Prior to Alan Mulally’s arrival at Ford in fall, 2006, consensus management was used extensively in the company, even with new model designs. For example, in early 2006 when the Ford Fusion was launched, it didn’t have side air bags, a satellite radio, or a navigation system. Why? Ford’s Finance organization demanded they be removed, to get costs down. Unfortunately, the Fusion’s competitors, even the lower priced Hyundai Elantra, had all these goodies, and the Ford Fusion was strongly criticized by auto critics and potential customers. Net, Ford’s designers were not really in charge of design. They were in charge of consensus coordination. Fortunately, Mulally change all that!
Consensus is valuable when you are trying to improve a process. You need expertise from a variety of disciplines to help minimize variability and maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
Consensus is very destructive when you are trying to drive change or innovate. Why? Change and innovation require that things be done differently. If all parties that are impacted must agree, then you get a Ford Fusion without the goodies that the competitors have. Change and innovation will cause some discomfort to the protectors of the status quo. Strong leaders realize that is OK; in fact it comes with the territory!
Have your ideas ever been destroyed or marginalized by consensus?