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Consensus is Overrated

By Joey Havens

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“We should wait until we can get more of a consensus on this,” is ringing in my ears as we discuss some strategic decisions within our partner leadership group. What is the saying — a strength taken to excess becomes a weakness?  

Frankly, consensus is overrated in public accounting firms. It has led our profession to have a false harmony, resulting in moving too slow based on the accelerated change we are presently facing. There, I said it. It hurt, but we desperately need to step back and assess if we have moved from consensus-building being a strength to a glaring weakness.  

Nothing in this blog is intended to take away from how important securing buy-in is. The clarity of communication and hearing every voice is necessary for any major strategic decision and is foundational for strong cultures. Good decision making comes from the debating of varying opinions from diverse stakeholders.  

However, waiting on and working towards consensus moves our decision making to the lowest common denominator. When you stop and reflect on this false Eutopia, it doesn’t mean that we are guaranteed success or even less risk by insisting on consensus. We could be increasing our risks and creating a false harmony while there’s still no guarantee that everyone will get along.

In my opinion, this goal of waiting on building consensus is a cancer that our competition is taking advantage of and that continues to keep our profession lagging on new opportunities. Let’s have those healthy debates, decide on a direction and move with energy and urgency. Our partner mindset can evolve to supporting decisions even though I might disagree. Together we are stronger.