Reach Consensus by Using
Fist to Five
I recently had a conversation with a healthcare professional about a simple system she uses to save a ton of time. We were discussing a meeting in which she used a modified “Fist to Five” technique to help her team to reach consensus more quickly. This is also known as “Fist of Five.” Relax; it has nothing to do with the beat down she threatened just to get them to the conference room on time.
We’ve all been in meetings that seemed to drag on because the group couldn’t reach consensus. Sometimes teams spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to get past “go.” The fist to five technique is a simple way to rank points by how critical they are to the overall success of the project. It can also be used to gauge your team’s support of a decision point. The result is clarity and focus for the entire team as it works though complicated issues.
The team needed to rank a series of facts to determine which ones were more critical than others. These would then be applied to the project. The “facts” are similar to what we used to call the critical to quality (CTQs) issues, when I was at GE. We tried to identify the CTQs when addressing what the client perceived to be their most important benefits or needs. By focusing on the CTQs, we could be sure that we were addressing the most important issues. It also helped us to avoid getting lost in the weeds (which is always a risk when you have a team or committee involved in a complex issue).
Here’s how it works. The leader assigns the following ranking criteria: a fist equals not very important, 3 equals moderately important, and 5 equals critically important. Now attempt to establish a relative value for each of the facts by canvasing the group. For the first fact, read it out loud and ask everyone in the room to rank it by holding up a fist, 3 or 5 fingers. Quickly count the number of votes for each value. Then ask the members of each group who feel strongly about their votes to explain why they applied that particular value. This is extremely insightful when you’re working with a cross-functional team.
You may find that some fists are willing to change to 3’s and so on. Ideally, once different perspectives are voiced, the group may be willing to move toward a common ranking. Consensus is achieved. Ultimately, you can decide to apply a final ranking by simple majority, but only after you’ve given the chance to for the team to consider other perspectives. Once you’ve achieved this for the first fact, move on to the next and continue until your team agrees on the final ranking.
A quick word of caution: It’s important that the leader get people to voice their individual perspectives. Remember, silence isn’t always a sign of agreement.
By engaging your team in this foundational work, you may find that you have greater buy-in from each member of the team. The common ranking will enable you to reach consensus on important points and move more efficiently through the rest of the process. If you do it correctly, you might be able to escape the conference room and make it home for dinner!
I described the technique used by this professional as a “modified” fist to five. If you’d like to read other ways you could use the technique, I’ve provided links to 3 other blog articles, for your convenience. I wish you the best of luck as attempt to work through your team’s complicated issues.