Imagine you are part of a team with six members and that you have an idea of a better furniture arrangement in your team room. You visualise your idea by drawing a sketch of it on the whiteboard and show it to your team. You ask your five peers if they like the idea.
- One says 'yes',
- one nods his head vaguely,
- one turns around to his computer and gets to work again,
- one sits staring and says nothing,
- one asks 'When?'
You answer 'Today, tomorrow? Better sooner than later.'
She answers 'Perhaps'.
Do you have consensus?
Can you go on with your idea and start moving things around?
To find out more what your peers really think, you could ask them to participate in a quick Roman voting.
You can ask 'Do you want to rearrange the furniture according to my idea?' and the people in your team can answer with their thumbs:
- Thumb up = Yes, absolutely, go ahead!
- Thumb sideway = Don't know or don't care, works for me.
- Thumb down = No, absolutely not!
After the vote you will get a better understanding of where people stand. And the persons who vote thumb down can get a chance to make their thoughts heard. Perhaps they can find the idea attractive enough with a few adjustments that better suit their needs?
Fists of five
Same concept as Roman voting, but with more nuance because you use all fingers on one hand to grade what you think.
- Five fingers: This is a great idea. I wish I’d thought of it.
- Four fingers: This is a good idea and has my full support.
- Three fingers: I’m neutral. The idea is OK. Maybe there’s a better idea. Maybe not.
- Two fingers: I don’t like this idea. I’d prefer we do something different.
- One finger: This is a project-threatening decision. We need to pursue an alternative.
When there are multiple alternatives to choose among, each person can use a number of dots to distribute among the alternatives that person feels most for. The alternatives with the most dots are the alternatives that the team is most interested in.
A technique to try to reach consensus.
- Everyone starts to think about what his own thoughts about something are.
- Then people pair up and try to reach consensus in their two person group.
- Then the pairs pair up to get groups of four and try to reach consensus in that group
- Then the whole group tries to reach consensus, by this time lots of pros and cons of different alternatives can have been discussed.
My initial thought was to make this post about thumb voting only, but then I found this page that describes all four techniques in more detail and also has a decision tree as a help to choose when to use what technique.