Agreeing on a Problem vs. Agreeing on a Solution

agree-on-problem-vs-agree-on-solution4 methods of decision-making, their pros & cons and the overall implementation of resolution

If you’ve ever attempted to break up a board meeting around noon, you’ve experienced the subtle, yet staggering difference between agreeing on a problem and agreeing on a solution. All eight members around the table have agreed that they are hungry, but choosing a lunch destination becomes a separate ordeal. So, how can you streamline your decision-making process?

There are four types of decisions – each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Minority (as few as one person decides) Quickest Low commitment from non-participants
Majority (more than half of the team decides) Quick Low commitment from “losers”
Unanimous (all agree on the decision) High commitment, fast implementation Can overlook the other options
Consensus (all commit to carry out decision) High creativity, high commitment Takes time, patience, and facilitation skills


As the person in charge, you are looking to implement a consensus decision-making process. Whether allocating funds in a business budget, voting on a new company policy or selecting a restaurant for office lunch, being a great leader not only requires you to ensure a decision is made, but that it is carried to fruition. Even if your employees do not share the consensus opinion, their dedication to being active parts of the solution and not the problem will guarantee the verdict is successfully put into practice. In order to reach consensus, encourage each member of the deciding body to enter into the decision-making process with these goals in mind.

  • I will be open to influence.
  • I will contribute, not defend.
  • I will actively listen to others’ views and find out the reasons for their positions.
  • I will not agree solely for the sake of agreement.
  • I will confront differences.

At the conclusion of the meeting, make certain each of your employees can answer these questions with a confident “yes.”

  • Have I honestly listened?
  • Have I been heard and understood?
  • Will I give up “the right to be right”?
  • Will I support the decision and say, “We decided…?”

-Adapted from the book “Leading teams:  Mastering the New Role” by Human Resource expert John Zenger & co.