How do you break a deadlock when the group can’t decide between two or more viable options?
Actually having more than one good idea is a nice problem to have. I say this even knowing that it can cause conflicts and be uncomfortable. Your group is coming up with workable solutions to problems. This is a good thing. Some groups are not able to get that far. Now we just have to help you convert your good fortune (multiple ideas) into action, so that the team can succeed.
- Establish selection criteria. When trying to pick among several good options, the group first needs to decide what criteria it will use to make its decision. Here are some common criteria: Easiest to implement, most likely to be approved by upper management, cheapest, quickest fix, biggest impact on the problem, etc.
- Let everyone have a say. Once the two or three competing ideas have been identified, ask everyone to share an opinion about each. You might ask folks to point out the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal. Ask them which they would choose if they were limited to just one. Ask if there are any that they could not live with. By going one at a time and letting everyone talk, the group typically gains a couple new insights and the best answer often emerges naturally.
- Change your acceptance standard. Instead of choosing the one that everyone believes is best, look for the one that has the broadest levels of support. There is a difference. If I am asked to choose the best among five options, I might think option four should be chosen. But when asked which I would support, I might select all except option two. You may find that the group is split on the best choice, but has a lot of consensus about one option when asked if they could support it.
When you have a deadlock, a decision won’t come easy. By implementing these three strategies, you increase the odds of arriving at one and decrease the amount of time it takes to get there.
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