Have you ever been in a never-ending meeting, discussing things for hours or trying to reach a consensus?
It’s stressful, isn’t it? Here I’ll explain a facilitation technique specifically developed for reaching consensus.
But what does consensus mean?
Contrary to what many people think, reaching a consensus doesn’t mean achieving unanimity – the concept of consensus is broader than that. It means that the people involved may even think that there are better options but all of them are willing to accept the majority decision.
Imagine that your team is discussing a technical matter and they considered a few solutions. The team chose one that seems to be the most acceptable to everyone. Then, the team starts a round of voting: each team member places their vote using a scale from 1 to 5. This technique is called Five Fingers because people use their hands to vote:
1- I completely disagree and find it unacceptable
2- I disagree
3- I can see advantages and disadvantages, but I’ll accept what the group decides
4- I agree
5- I completely agree
The team reached a consensus if all members give 3 or more Otherwise, the discussion continues to give time for those who voted 1 or 2 explain their vote and suggest changes. Based on the feedback, the group tries to adjust the proposed solution, then a new round of voting is held, hoping that the votes given are only 3, 4 or 5.
At this point, two things can happen:
– The team celebrates if there is a consensus;
– No consensus? In this case, common sense is used to decide whether a new round is worthwhile. If the answer is no, the proposed solution is rejected, and a new idea must be brought to the table.
Obviously, the Five Fingers technique doesn’t guarantee that the team will reach a consensus because not every solution presented is enough. The idea is to organize the decision-making process, making sure that everyone is heard and the team doesn’t waste time with endless, stressful and, above all, inefficient discussions. One way to make the session even more efficient is to set up timeboxes for discussions and voting rounds. In fact, using timeboxes to keep track of time is another great facilitation technique.