Do you ever get tired of meetings that seem to be called for the sole purpose of talking in circles about the same topic as the last seven meetings? I do, but, like it or not, decisions have to be made. If your company cares about collaboration and teamwork (which they hopefully do), then reaching a consensus is imperative, especially if the decision will have a significant impact on the company going forward. This begs the question of how we can have meetings in which we quickly come to a consensus without arguing, talking in circles, or generally putting people in bad moods. And while the answer to this question is complex and probably different for each company, I have recently been introduced to a decision making and conflict resolution tool that can greatly reduce the time you spend making decisions in meetings. It is called “Fist to Five”.

The core idea of Fist to Five is simple in concept. First someone proposes a course of action. This can be a change in company structure, the hiring of a new employee, adoption of a new contract or methodology, or something similar. What is important is that the proposal is actionable, allowing a clear decision to be made. Once a course of action has been proposed, you give people a few seconds to consider it, then count to three. Everyone votes simultaneously by holding out their hand with between zero and five (inclusive) fingers raised. As you have no doubt surmised, the number of fingers raised corresponds to each person’s vote on the action item, but this is where Fist to Five begins to differ from typical decision making methods. With Fist to Five, you are not expressing your level of enthusiasm (as you would in a quiz where you pick a number between 1 (strongly disagree) and 5 (strongly agree)). Instead, you are expressing your willingness to adopt the proposal, where the number of fingers you hold up has a meaning as follows:

Zero fingers: I refuse. I will not do this.
One finger: I need a lot more discussion before I am ready to make a decision.
Two fingers: I need a little bit more discussion first.
Three fingers: No argument here.
Four fingers: Yes, we should do that.
Five Fingers: We should absolutely do this, I will even lead it!

Or, to put it a bit less formally:

Zero: No.
One: You’ll have to convince me…
Two: I have some questions first.
Three: All the same to me. (also: “meh”)
Four: Lets do it.

What is awesome about Fist to Five is that when it really comes down to it, it does not matter whether you like the idea or not. What matters is whether you are willing to do it. It turns meetings from “I want this!” “Well I want this!” “But I wanted this…” to “I think we should do this.” “I am not convinced that it would be good. Have you considered these alternatives?” It changes the conversation from what people want, to what should be done, which is really what the meeting was about in the first place.

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