Five Fingers: a powerful facilitation technique

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? I would like to show you a facilitation technique developed specifically 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 all people involved in the discussion are willing to accept the decision of the majority, even if they consider other solutions better.

Facilitation with your Five Fingers

Imagine that your team is discussing a technical matter. They found a few solutions and chosen one – they do voting: each team member votes 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 see both advantages and disadvantages but will accept the decision of the group
  4. I agree
  5. I completely agree

The consensus is reached only if all members showed 3 or more fingers – if not, the discussion continues. Those who showed 1 or 2 fingers have to explain their statement 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 given votes will be only 3,4 or 5.

At this point, two things can happen:

  • The team celebrates if they reached 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.

As you can see, the Five Fingers technique does not guarantee you´ll reach the consensus, as not every presented solution is sufficient. The idea is to organize the decision-making process, by letting each person make a statement in order to not waste time for 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 excellent facilitation technique.



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