A structured process for achieving consensus. Consensus seeking can be useful in deciding how to use a forecast. It can help groups to process information and to resolve conflicts. In practice, complete unanimity is rare. However, each individual should be able to accept the group's conclusion. Consensus seeking requires the use of a facilitator who helps the group to follow these guidelines:
Avoid arguing for your own viewpoint. Present your position logically, then listen to the other members.
Do not assume that someone must win when the discussion reaches a stalemate. Instead, restate the problem or generate new alternatives.
Do not change your mind simply to avoid conflict. Be suspicious when agreement seems to come too quickly. Explore the reasons, and be sure that everyone accepts the solution.
Avoid conflict-reducing techniques, such as majority vote, averages, coin flips, and bargaining. When a dissenting member finally agrees, do not think the group must give way to their views on some later point.
Differences of opinion are natural and expected. Seek them out and involve everyone in a discussion of them. A wide range of opinions increases the chance that the group will find a better solution.
Alternatively, consensus has been used to assess the level of agreement among a set of forecasts. Higher consensus often implies higher accuracy, especially when the forecasts are made independently. Ashton (1985) examined two different forecast situations: forecasts of annual advertising sales for Time magazine by 13 Time, Inc. executives given forecast horizons for one, two, and three quarters, and covering 14 years; and forecasts by 25 auditors of 40 firms’ problems, such as bankruptcy. Using two criteria, correlation and mean absolute deviation, she compared the actual degree of agreement (between forecasts by different judges) against the accuracy of these judges. She also compared each judge’s degree of agreement with all other judges and related this to that judge’s accuracy. Agreement among judges did imply greater accuracy and this relationship was strong and statistically significant. This adds evidence for using consensus as a proxy for confidence.