4 Steps to Help Teams Choose a Solution

agile teams collaboration decision-making identifying options

By Ryan Fullmer

September 8, 2022

When an agile team decides on a solution option, it's important to hear everyone's voice. The team makes the best decisions when they consider different perspectives. The challenge for the team is to move from divergent ideas to a group decision. They can get bogged down when there are lots of competing ideas and perspectives.

To get unstuck, the team might jump at the first solution idea that has any traction. Or they let the loudest voices on the team drive the direction. Either way, the team is not working well together to arrive at the best decision.

You can support the team by ensuring there is a plan in place for effective group decision-making. Take these four steps to help the process go smoothly.

Step 1: Make it Visual

After brainstorming, team members may struggle to make sense of the options, it can be a frustrating point in the discussion. To help them sort through the information, make it visual.

Use drawings, maps, canvases, sticky notes, and shared documents to guide the discussion. These tools organize the information and make it easier to understand and analyze.

The visual tools provide a space to capture information from the team. Decide in advance who will record the information. This can be a designated recorder or the participants themselves.

Step 2: Make Time for Generating Insights

After the information is captured and visual, you can help them take a deeper look and better understand  the information. Here are two ways you can help the group generate these deeper insights.

The first way is to provide time for people to think about the information. Some people on the team are going to need time to consider what was discussed. Give them time to reflect and capture their insights. This can be as simple as having them jot down their thoughts on sticky notes. Have them post their insights on the board and share it with the team.

The second way is to ask open-ended questions. Ask questions that encourage further discovery and deeper understanding. Capture and display the insights that result from these questions.

For example, you can ask questions like:

  • “Tell me more about it?”
  • “What else?"
  • “What might be possible?”
  • “How do we know?”
  • “What is it that we are not seeing?”

There is a lot of good information on using open-ended questions that can be found online. Search for information related to “powerful questions”.

Step 3: Support Group Decision-Making

After generating insights, the group needs to move toward a common solution. The goal is to reach a decision and come to closure on the solution and identify next steps.

Go into the meeting with an approach to help the group make a decision. One technique we find effective is Dot Voting.

Dot Voting is a simple and straightforward way to identify the group’s preferences from a list of solution options. This technique will help the group narrow down to a few options.

Dot Voting Steps

  • Give each person a set number of votes
    • Rule of thumb - 25% of the number of options plus 1. If you have 8 options, each person gets 3 votes.
    • Use stickers or dots drawn with a marker to represent the votes
      • For virtual meetings, use online voting or virtual stickers
  • Each person votes
    • They can put all their votes on one option or split them out over multiple options
  • Count up the votes and post the totals
  • Review and discuss the results
  • Decide which options to select

Step 4: Validate Buy-In

After the team decides, it can be helpful to determine each person's buy-in on the decision. You can ask the team if they have any concerns or objections with moving forward.

Provide space for people to share and capture their concerns. Help them make adjustments to the decision based on the concerns. This will build buy-in to the decision across the whole team.

A good technique to determine buy-in is Fist to Five. Review the decision and ask each member to show their level of agreement. They do this by raising their hand and showing a fist or one or more fingers.

  • Fist = I don't agree and cannot support the decision
  • 1 Finger = I see major issues that need to be addressed before I can support it
  • 2 Fingers =  I see some minor issues and have reservations
  • 3 Fingers = I see some minor issues and I am okay with the decision
  • 4 Fingers = I am good with the decision and support it
  • 5 Fingers = I love the idea and I will champion it

If the team is all 4s and 5s, there is strong buy-in to move forward with the decision. If there are lower scores, capture and address the concerns. Help the team make adjustments and rerun Fist to Five ensuring there are no remaining 1s and 2s.

Give it a Try

Give these four steps a try in the team's next decision-making meeting. Gather feedback from the team on how it went. Work with the team to identify any areas that still need to be improved in their decision-making process.

For additional ideas on improving your meetings, click here to read 5 Solutions for Better Meetings.

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