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Give Me Five!

Fingers of the left hand.Image via Wikipedia

Americans are sick of partisan politics. Since the November elections, "compromise" is the word of the day.

Not everyone is willing to reason together of course, not if it means giving in on anything they feel strongly about. In fact, it is like some people would rather see nothing happen -- see progress stall -- than reach across the aisle, find common ground and collaborate on a decision. The fact that there's even an aisle at all is problematic!

It is not just politicians. We've all seen results suffer in organizations because leaders didn't know how -- or didn't want to -- dialogue, and then, when necessary, reach consensus.

I was talking with an IT executive the other day and he was telling me about a team-based decision making tool their "scrum" teams use. (Scrum teams. Now there's another intriguing concept. But I digress...) The decision making technique is called Fist-to-Five and it comes in really handy when there is not total agreement on how to move forward with a project. Those times when it's important to canvass all team members' opinions in order to refine the decision and ensure buy-in on everyone's part. When it's not ok to say nothing and then complain later.

Here's how it works: When there's disagreement -- perhaps partisanship -- about a decision within a project team, a cross functional team, a leadership group, a staff committee, even a family, you let people vote using their hands and display fingers to represent their degree of support.

  • Fist: a no vote -- "I need to talk more about this and would require some changes before I could agree."
  • 1 Finger: "I still need to discuss certain issues and suggest some changes."
  • 2 Fingers: "I'm pretty comfortable but want to talk about some minor issues."
  • 3 Fingers: "I'm not in total agreement but feel comfortable enough to go with this decision."
  • 4 Fingers: "I think it's a good idea/decision and will work for it."
  • 5 Fingers: "It's a great idea and I will be one of the leaders in implementing it."

A team is ready to move forward with a decision once they've addressed the concerns of anyone displaying fewer than three fingers.

"Moving forward, making progress." Like "compromise", our hope for tomorrow.

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