Facilitating Group Decision Making - Community Engagement - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Facilitating Group Decision-Making: We Need to Make a Decision!

Decisions need to be made every step along the way. The first thing to recognize is that decisions are difficult to make in a group. Your group will have a certain amount of information on a topic and have to make decisions based on that. Here are some well-tested methods for making decisions that you may find useful.

Modified Consensus
Motion / Majority Vote
Nominal Group


Through discussion, all people support the final decision, even if it is not their first personal choice. Pure consensus is 100 percent agreement.


  • Encourage individuals to consider issues other than personal interests
  • Provide time for discussion
  • Believe that out of discussion comes better decisions

Modified Consensus

Through discussion, the maximum possible agreement is achieved among group members who choose to participate. Agreement of all group members may not be reached.


  • Make clear that those who withdraw forfeit the right to criticize or work against the decision that is reached

Motion or Majority Vote

Motions are brought forth and seconded, and then individuals vote either verbally or in writing.


  • Allow a time lag before finalizing the decision or implementing it
  • Try to avoid rushed decisions
  • Build discussion time into the meeting

Nominal Group Process

  1. Nominal Phase: Each individual writes a silent list of ideas. Share and record the ideas in a round-robin format until all ideas are listed. There is no discussion at this step.
  2. Discussion Phase: Discuss each idea. Give the opportunity to clarify, explain, and add support or nonsupport to the ideas.
  3. Voting Phase: Each individual privately ranks ideas numerically (e.g., first, second, etc.). Make a group decision based on the pooled outcome of individual votes.


  • Try to reserve this technique for difficult, complex decisions
  • Can also be used for generating new ideas

More Information: Local Public Health & QI Toolbox: Nominal Group Technique


The group works together to develop a chart that lays out the things to consider when making a decision.

Use six columns:

  1. Description of problem
  2. Criteria for a satisfactory solution
  3. Possible solutions
  4. Drawbacks, costs, and obstacles for each solution
  5. Expected benefits from each solution
  6. Judgments or conclusions about each solution


  • May be best used when implication of solutions are unclear
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of time with this procedure

Ranking Procedure

Start with a list of up to 10 items. Have these written on a flip chart, overhead, or blackboard so that they are visible to the whole group. Have each member of the group assign a number to each item for how important he/she feels it is.


  • Rank in descending order from most (ten) to least (one) important
  • Give each item a value of one, two, or three, corresponding to very important, somewhat important, and not very important
  • Compute average scores based on the individual rankings
  • Rewrite the items in the order of their scores
  • Discuss the setting of priorities
  • Redo ranking, if desired


  • Particularly useful if there are divergent positions in the group
  • An objective way to set priorities

Reprinted From: Community Mobilization Manual, Ontario Ministry of Health