Have you ever been in a never-ending meeting, discussing things for hours, 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 a few solutions are being considered. The one that seems to be the most acceptable to everyone is chosen, and 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
If all team members give 3 or more, a consensus is reached. Otherwise, the discussion continues, giving 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 consensus is reached: great, celebrate!
– The consensus isn’t reached: 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 actually that good. 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.