The steps outlined in our previous post to set the stage towards consensus-building. When it comes to the actual decision point, it helps that a facilitator knows ways to guide a group towards optimal decision-making. In this post, we will discuss ways to identify options, create a short list, and choose a solution. We will also use a way of deciding not often considered by many, called the multi-option technique.
Identifying the Options
The following are some ways groups can identify options during decision-making. Some of these ways are also the ways of gathering information discussed earlier.
Brainstorm. Brainstorming is the process of coming up with as many ideas as you can in the shortest time possible. It makes use of diversity of personalities in a group, so that one can come up with the widest range of fresh ideas. Quantity of ideas is more important than quality of ideas in the initial stage of brainstorming; you can filter out the bad ones later on with an in-depth review of their pros and cons.
Round Robin. Ask each member of the group to suggest one option for consideration. All members must contribute an idea.
Facilitated SWOT Analysis. Some teams create each option as a group, and they do so by conducting a facilitated analysis of the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as they relate to the problem.
The most import thing about these processes is that they are conducted in a consultative fashion.
Creating a Short List
There are many criteria a facilitator use to help a group create a shortlist. The following are just some of these ways:
Costs and benefits. An ideal solution is one that has the least costs and most benefits.
Disagreeing parties’ interests. An ideal solution has factored in the impact on all parties concerned and has made adjustments accordingly.
Foresight. An ideal solution doesn’t have just short-term gains bit long term ones as well.
Obstacles. An ideal solution has anticipated all possible obstacles in its implementation and has made plans accordingly.
Values. An ideal solution is one that is consistent with the mission-vision of the organization and or its individual members.
Choosing a Solution
There are many ways a facilitator can guide a group in creating a shortlist. The following are just some of these ways:
Decide on a criterion (or criteria). Ask the group to come up with the criteria to be used to evaluate each option. These criteria could be costs and benefits, consistency with the values of the organization, feasibility, etc. Once criteria are set, the facilitator can guide the group into weighing each option according the criteria.
Survey which options members like. A facilitator can also conduct a quick survey of what each group members like in the list. You can select the solution either by strict consensus or by majority vote.
Survey which options members don’t like. Similarly, a facilitator can ask the group which options from the short list are no-no’s and eliminate them from the list.
Using the Multi-Option Technique
When coming up with solutions to an issue, you are not limited to choosing one best one. You can also pick several solutions to a problem, and follow through on these many solutions simultaneously. This is process called the multi-option technique.
For instance, in addressing a problem about lagging sales, approaches can be related to poor advertising, poor market selection, or a problem in the product itself. A group following the multi-option technique will assign a person or team to follow through on each option. One team can create a better advertising campaign; another team can look for a better market; while another team can improve the product. In succeeding meetings, each team will report their results as separate teams.
The solutions followed through in a multi-option technique are not necessarily complimentary to one another, although groups have the option to follow through on only complimentary ideas. But if the group wants to see two opposing scenarios with different assumptions, they can do so.
How can a facilitator conduct the multi-option technique? The group can brainstorm several options, and the facilitator can help the group select which of the many options they want to pursue further.
This post is from November’s topic on “Facilitation Skills“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.