fast issue resolution tipWhen important decisions come up at your organization, do you meet as a group to pursue issue resolution? Meetings that require difficult decisions can end in conflict. You might leave without an agreed upon consensus. Or you might find that the ideal solution is to have a follow-up meeting.

If you aren’t reaching a consensus after your meetings, it may be time to seek the help of a professional facilitator. These trained experts help groups reach a consensus by applying proven strategies in issue resolution. Their structured approach guides participants to think beyond individual positions and opinions, which can prevent critical issues from resolution. They build agreement around a solution and move the group to action.

When a group is headed towards consensus, there are many different methods to reach a resolution. We’ve summarized three that are common and may seem familiar.

Common Consensus Building Tactics 

  1. Majority Rules
    This is a simple concept. The largest portion of the group who agree make up the majority – the decision belongs to them. This process can be quick but the decision may not be optimal if not enough time was spent investigating alternatives. Worse than a hasty decision, a Majority Rules implementation may not ultimately succeed. Participants may not feel their alternative was valued.
  2. Super Majority
    This process is like ‘Majority Rules,’ except a certain high percentage (usually 60%, 67% or 75%) must be reached. A larger majority could mean more support from the group. Yet, the group may experience problems similar to those resulting from Majority Rules. The decisions can still be made too hastily and some participants may not feel valued in the conclusion.
  3. Consensus
    This is a popular approach to decision-making in a facilitated session. Consensus is often defined as, “I can live with it and support it.” Everyone might not agree the decision is best, but the solution has enough strong points to appease every person. The benefit of Consensus is that it encourages discussion until solutions are created that everyone is willing to accept. Consensus has two major challenges. It can take a long time (getting everyone on the same page usually does). With time being a factor, the second big problem with consensus is that the decision still might not be the best option. Like a political filibuster, some people might get worn down and agree to a consensus simply to end the meeting.

There is hope to find a better solution for issue resolution. Through years of proven experience, professional facilitators have discovered a proven method which yields stronger results.

5-Finger Consensus

The 5-finger Consensus is designed to encourage broad agreement without jeopardizing the quality of the solution. After an alternative is proposed and discussed, the professional facilitator will check for agreement. The facilitator explains that on the count of three, participants need to hold up between one and five fingers indicating the level of support for the recommendation on the table.

  • 5 means “Strongly agree”
  • 4 means “Agree”
  • 3 means “I can see pluses and minuses but am willing to go along with the group”
  • 2 means “Disagree”
  • 1 means “Strongly disagree and can’t support”

The goal is to reach all 5, 4 and 3 votes. If only 5, 4 or 3 are reached in the first vote, you have consensus. If anyone votes 1 or 2, the participants who voted can give an explanation and recommendation to the group. The person who originally suggested the alternative can amend the solution to accommodate those who voted 1 or 2. If a change is made to the recommendation, then it is a new first vote. If no change is made then it goes on to the second vote.

On the second vote, if everyone shows a 5, 4, 3 or 2, a consensus is reached. If anyone in your groups votes a 1, those who voted can explain and provide their recommendations. Again, the person who provided the alternative can chose to amend it. If a change is made to the recommendation, then it is a new first vote. If no change is made, then it goes on to the third vote. On the third vote, majority rules.

In all cases, 5-finger consensus encourages the group to listen carefully when there is disagreement while maintaining a timely decision-making process. Professional facilitators guide the entire process ensuring that everyone is heard, and heard well; and that the will of the group prevails.

If it is time to call in the help of a professional facilitator to solve a problem or reach a decision in your group, contact us, chat us, or call us at 1-877-212-2361.