Use a Structured Discussion to Make a Decision

Structured Discussion
Image Credit

Teams have access to many decision-making tools. These tools increase decision-making speed and quality and should be used whenever possible. Still, when a team is struggling between two or three reasonable options, there is no better tool than a structured discussion.

In a structured discussion, each participant has a chance to voice her comments about the various options. This might include what she sees as the option’s strengths and weaknesses, likely impacts, or major concerns. One person talks at a time and it is everyone else’s job to listen carefully.

As the discussion continues, a facilitator captures each person’s main points on a flip chart. When everyone has spoken the facilitator and/or the group reviews the points and tries to determine where the group agrees and disagrees. This is also a good time to check whether everyone in the group would be willing to support the same option. If they will, consensus has been achieved.

If consensus is not reached, the group focuses on the points of disagreement. Again, the same process is followed. Everyone has a chance to speak. Major points are captured. There is a consensus check. This continues until the group reaches consensus.

Structured discussion emphasizes equal participation and careful listening. The process is designed to remove some of the emotion that may interfere with listening. The discussion often seems boring, but results in new insights, ideas, and most importantly, group support for the decision.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce owns LaForce Teamwork Services, a Minneapolis-based consulting company. He's on a mission to create better results through teamwork. He wrote Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings.