Project Management Institute

Reaching consensus

TeamWorks

by Paula K. Martin and Karen Tate, PMP, Contributing Editors

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN on a team that had several viable options to choose from and needed to reach consensus? After initial polite discussion, people begin to heatedly defend the options they prefer. Finally, in exhaustion and disgust, the team picks an option, based on what the most powerful, passionate or vocal person desires.

This approach not only leads to ineffective team decisions, it also doesn't even lead to consensus. Consensus is not everyone agreeing with the final decision—it's everyone agreeing that they can live with and support the final decision.

The team needs everyone's agreement to support team decisions. Here's how to get it.

How do you reach consensus and make good decisions? First, you'll need to equip yourself with a facilitator's toolbox, because like any good craftsman you need the right tool for the right job. One compartment of your tool box should hold decision-making tools.

Let's talk about three decision-making tools: the T-chart, nominal group technique (NGT), and the decision matrix. Use the T-chart to begin the decision-making process. First, write one of the decision options on a piece of flipchart paper. Draw a T and ask the group for all the plusses for this option and list them on left side of the T. Then ask for all the weaknesses and write them on the right side. Repeat this for each option. When you've analyzed each option, use the NGT to see if you have consensus.

Give everyone in the group three dots with the numbers 3, 2, and 1 on them. (One number per dot.) The number 3 dot is a vote of three points. Ask each team member to affix the number 3 dot to his or her first choice, the number 2 dot to his or her second choice, and so forth. After everyone has voted, add up the votes for each decision option. If there is a clear winner that everyone can live with, you've reached consensus.


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Paula Martín and Karen Tate, PMP, are co-founders of MartinTate, a project management training firm. They are the authors of the Project Management Memory Jogger. For information on their products and services, visit their website: www.projectre sults.com. Phone: +513-563-3010 or +877-563-3010.

Project Management Training Decision Matrix

This decision-making tool allows a team to identify decision criteria as well as factors influencing the decision

Exhibit 1. This decision-making tool allows a team to identify decision criteria as well as factors influencing the decision.

If there's no clear winner, try the decision-matrix tool. Pick the top three or four decision options from your NGT exercise. List them across the top of a matrix. Then ask the group to brainstorm decision criteria. In our project management training example in the exhibit, one of the criteria was minimizing time away from work.

Pick the top three to six criteria. (You can use the NGT to make this choice if there isn't a clear consensus.) Place the criteria down the left-hand side of the matrix. Give each criterion a weight, using a scale of 1–10, with each criterion receiving a different weight. (A 10 means this criterion is very important.)

Now, rate each decision option versus each criterion, using a 1,3 or 9 rating, with 9 meaning it highly satisfies the criterion. In our example, we compared ease of scheduling with random enrollment. There was a moderate correlation, so we place the rating of 3 in the top left corner of the box. After we have done each comparison, we multiply each rating times the weight to get a weighted rating. These are in bold in the bottom right-hand side of the box. We then total each column of weighted ratings to get the decision score for each option. In our example, training in a just-in-time mode wins.

USING DECISION-MAKING tools will help your team make more effective decisions, so before you head out to your next team meeting, make sure your toolbox it stuffed full of useful team tools. Don't leave your office without them. images

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

October 1999 PM Network

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