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.

Jump To Technique:

Consensus

Here's how to do it:

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

Tips:

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

Modified Consensus

Here's how to do it:

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

Tips:

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

Motion or Majority Vote

Here's how to do it:

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

Tips:

  • 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

Here's how to do it: Follow these steps:

  1. Nominal Phase--Each individual writes a silent list of ideas. Share and record the ideas in a round-robining 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.

Tips:

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

Charting


Here's how to do it:

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; and
  6. Judgments or conclusions about each solution.

Tips:

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

Ranking Procedure


Here's how to do it: 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.

Options:

  • 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.

Tips:

  • 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 [Attn: Non-MDH link]