This paper looks at how policy‐makers use various alternative decision arenas to avoid internal policy incoherence. Inconsistency between goals and measures in a policy indirectly results from conflicting interests pulling in different directions within a heterarchical institutional setting. To avoid deadlock, negotiators rely on consensus‐building techniques such as watering down, issue redefinition, and the setting of targets without actions. These techniques facilitate moving away from the status quo, but they come at the expense of coherence. This paper shows that alternative decision arenas may bypass conflict, and thereby make the use of consensus‐building techniques unnecessary, resulting in more coherence. Examples from the emerging field of energy efficiency policy substantiate this claim.