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Have you ever had a great meeting that just couldn't reach a consensus? No final decision, no compromise? Here's how to get it fixed:
To reach consensus, strive for it You won't reach a satisfactory solution unless you work toward it as a goal. Narrow the discussion down (see later in this article how) and close it. It's that easy!
What stops you from reaching a consensus, decision, and compromise? You usually cannot narrow down the discussion, because… it stays open — either proposed solutions bring too much uncertainty, or one or more participants are not convinced. Even good meetings can be victims of that phenomenon!
To reach the goal, keep narrowing down Here's how to do it in just 4 simple steps:
- Collect all solutions, possible decisions, and ideas.
- Discard the ones that are clearly not the solution: too expensive, too much effort, too radical, too… (insert adjective here),
- Take the first idea and compare it with another, then discard the one that is worse (it doesn't have to be a bad idea, it's just worse than the best one),
- Repeat step (3) until you are left with just one remaining, winning, idea.
Why pitting ideas against each other is so efficient? First, every idea will be considered, making everyone participating in the meeting engaged and involved. Second, the comparison process will be fact-based, i.e. there will be a reason why this particular idea was the best, compared to any other ideas that were considered. Third, a democratic and fact-based approach involves participants and keeps them engaged: even if their idea wasn't the one, they will take an active role in the formation of the ultimate, winning idea.
How to manage the process? The facilitators will have an easy task of itemizing each idea. Write it down on a piece of paper or a post-it, then collect all pros and cons. Let each participant add one or two to each group, then vote as a group. It's a very simple and efficient way to not only narrow down the discussion but also limit the risk of introducing chaos.
Wait, what about the compromise? There will be situations when consensus cannot be reached, even by narrowing the discussion down. In these moments you should focus on reaching a compromise instead. Here's how to do it efficiently in 3 steps:
- Collect solutions that seem to not match,
- Consider a problematic factor of each of the solution, e.g. price or risk, which solution react best (benefits) or lowers its value (flaws) when this factor is optimized?
- Try to find a configuration of factors that has the most benefits and the minimal amount of flaws,
A common example of a compromise-based problem is an attempt to establish product variants with a sound pricing strategy. The most expensive variant will have all the features, while the cheapest one will be minimally-viable. In between, a compromise-based product will be the average of both price and features: not the best, not the worst, but acceptable.
Meetings are a great tool for establishing a shared vision and aligning participants. Utilize smart communication tools like the narrow-down approach to ensure a smooth and enjoyable process.