If you are in a situation where several people need to decide something or come up with a plan, there’s a strategy that can help things flow smoothly while giving everyone a voice.
It works like this:
Use a notebook to record the details and designate one person out of the group to be the secretary. Everyone sits in a circle, either physically or virtually. It’s important that all are on equal “footing” and that no one owns the process, so if necessary, switch who is the secretary during the problem-solving event.
Go around the room, with each person in turn 1) describing the problem and 2) telling how they feel about it. Only the person whose turn it is can share. Others must only listen until their turn comes. Then go around the room again so each person has a turn to share something they forgot or clarify something based on what someone else has said. No one should be responding to or talking about what others have shared – only sharing and clarifying their own view of the problem and how they feel about it.
Make a summary statement of the problem and why it needs to be solved.
Brainstorm solutions. Every suggestion is written down, and no judgements are made about the suggestions. None are good or bad—they all get written down and hopefully become detached from the person who suggested them. This way, no one keeps “ownership” of the suggestions, and they all have equal status in the list. The next step ensures that everyone can “judge” the solutions as they need to. Just try to get as many solutions as possible during this step, with each solution recorded.
Next, go around the circle again. This time, each person can indicate one of the solutions that they cannot live with. Each is crossed off the list. This can be done as many times as necessary until there are a few solutions left that everyone could live with.
Implement one of the preferred solutions. Set a time to re-evaluate. Keep the original list of preferred solutions available for the re-evaluation in case a change is necessary. Check in at the time set for the re-evaluation, and if necessary, set another time to re-evaluate.
This method of communicating about the problem, gathering solutions, and then eliminating them based on everyone’s needs can be extremely effective for reaching an agreed-upon solution that will work for everyone!