Friday, September 2, 2011

Consensus - The "Fist to Five"

Building consensus can be a challenge. While often the preferred way to make decisions, consensus can be fleeting. It doesn't mean that everyone agrees wholeheartedly with the decision, but it does mean that everyone can support the decision. At a minimum, everyone should agree they can live with the decision.

One tool I've found to be useful is "Fist to Five." It can help you seek common ground and is a quick way to assess the support among every participants. Ask every participant to indicate their level of support from a closed fist (no support) to all five fingers (enthusiastic support). Most groups I work with agree that the discussion continues until everyone holds up at least three fingers. Here's the complete set of descriptors adapted from those prepared by Adventure Associates (2009)


“I need to talk more on the proposal and require changes to support it.”

1 Finger

“I still need to discuss some issues and I will suggest changes that should be made.”

2 Fingers

“I am moderately comfortable with the idea but would like to discuss some minor things.”

3 Fingers

“I’m not in total agreement but feel comfortable to let this idea pass without further discussion.”

4 Fingers

“I think it’s a good idea and will work for it.

5 Fingers

“It’s a great idea and I will be one of those working to implement it.”

I've used "Fist to Five" many times and it is always helpful to gauge the level of support for a decision. I'm convinced that we made a better decision when we worked to build a higher level of support. I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you work with groups to reach agreement. I'd also enjoy learning about your experience using the "Fist to Five" approach.

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