Here is a process how to facilitate an team to come to a decision together, online. Included are discussions of each step with examples of emails introducing the use of a common Weighted Evaluation Matrix spreadsheet.
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How does your team make a decision?
Usually, one person describes a problem. Another proposes a possible solution. Then others chime in about how that solution would have obstacles and won't solve the problem.
Then another solution is proposed. That person feels slighted when another says "that's not important."
Some don't say anything in fear of being belittled like that.
Suddenly, the team runs out of time when another team has the conference room scheduled.
So the team leader makes a decision.
Later, two at a time, team members privately discuss what a bad decision it was, and how the leader didn't listen.
What would your colleagues think if they received an email like this:
The top "best practices" in group decision making are:
The spreadsheet I propose is called a "matrix" because it captures several dimensions of ideas:
1. Options (labeled with capital A,B,C, etc. across from the middle of the spreadsheet) are "What if we do this?" proposals for action.
2. Criteria (labeled with lower case a,b,c down the spreadsheet) are from statements like "that won't work because" or "that's great because" which evaluate the options.
Criteria that are absolute "Must have" and "Must not have" (called "screeners") cannot be evaluated as a number, but as the percentage of members who vote "Yes" or "No".
3. weights adjusting for the importance of criteria are expressed so that their total sum up to 100% for all criteria from this Weights spreadsheet.
4. Ratings are assigned from this Ratings spreadsheet.
5. The Numerical winner is determined from the highest sum after each criteria weight is multiplied against each rating.
6. "screener" criteria may change the final decision.
In this example, "B" wins the numerical ratings, but since 0% of members think it "Doable", "A" becomes the final winner with all aspects considered.
The weights shown on the matrix are obtained from the average of team member's weight assignments on his/her copy of this Weights spreadsheet.
The Minimum (Min.) and Maximum (Max.) values among all members are shown to detect errors and to guage the level of disagreement among members.
The Coefficient of Variation (CoV) is calculated to measure the amount of agreement among team members (the reliability or "dispersion" of the average).
Those who use this need to understand the meaning of percentages and how they are calculated.
This main problem with this approach is its formality. Some people are unwilling to let go of their emotional prejudices even after this exercise. They insist on a certain outcome (winner) even in light of the “numbers.
How To Build An Online Community - an insightful article by Esther Schindler for ZDNet Developer.
Sun's Java Community ProcessSM (JCP) is an inclusive, consensus building approach that produces
a reference implementation (to prove the specification can be implemented),
and a technology compatibility kit (a suite of tests, tools, and documentation that is used to test implementations for compliance with the specification).
The process involves an ever-widening audience to review and comment on the document:
How can an entire group collaboratively compose a document as a group ... using email?
Here is a methodology for people to come to agreement using email technology. Example: Agree on a common criteria to evaluate project plans submitted by students in the class.
The problem with email is also its strength -- communications are broadcast from one individual to all others. Emotionally charged emails are called “flames”. Email exchanges consists of offer and response cycles, not interactive negotiation.
A number of software tools are emerging. For over a decade, Bernie Dekoven has been reporting on tools for collaborating online at his coworking.com website
However, many are reluctant to use new technologies.
My strategy for using email technology to come to agreement is adapted from the same strategy used to reach agreement in a face to face meeting.
Step 1 - Willingness to InnovateFirst, define stakeholders, their mutual goals, the benefit for achieving it, and the ground rules. Clarifying this is the first and very decisive battle. So many people become frustrated because they never did this to begin with and the lack of clarify undermines everything else they do.
Here is an example of an email to do this:
Or should we each use our own criteria?
I think it is worth a try if it saves just one meeting. We'll all have less miles on our cars and more time with the rest of our lives.
What do you guys think?
This trial balloon, in essence, is the first email poll. If enough people respond positively, we go to the next step. A followup phone call or physical visit may be needed for those who don't respond.
Step 2 - StructureThe problem with this email is that two questions were posed. Typically not a good tactic. People might answer only one question and we're left wondering which item they agree with.
But asked two questions is useful to give cover to an innovation that may not be well received.
Anyway, the second step is to identify a pre-existing structure or approach. An experienced team does this automatically.
Here's a sample email:
One possibility is the list of Core processes in PMP's Body of Knowledge? It's certainly comprehensive enough. The items are ...
Please let me know if this is OK, or propose a different structure.
A structure consists of deliverables, roles, and steps. If several structures are proposed, it's ususally best to adopt one rather than trying to merge the two.
Step 3 - Rules for CondensingRather than, I've found it better to brainstorm on separate lists at the same time.
Please add your items before we identify the top choices.
Poll A: How many items should be on the list of options?
Poll B: How many items should be on the list of criteria?
We'll limit the lists to the average of items we all recommend, OK?
Here we are proposing both content and process at the same time. Again, not the ideal of working out a process then implementing it. But this two-headed approach keeps the emails active at the risk of confusion.
Step 4 - CondenseExample email:
Now on to selecting those top options.
Below is are lists of options and criteria. Please allocate 100 points among items in each list.
Now we're on our way.
Step 5 - Collect the ScoresExample email:
Now we need to assign weights. Please put your numbers next to each criteria. I will turn your weightings into percentages, as shown in the sample.
Step 6, etc.We're on our way...
Your first name:
Your family name:
Your location (city, country):
Your Email address:
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