Category Archives for Productivity

How to Use the Degree of Agreement Technique

Figure 1: Degree of Agreement Process

Sometimes, we are asked to get parties to agree on a proposal filled with conflict. Asking individuals to vote yes or no can pit one group against another.

Is there a better way to get everyone on the same page and achieve consensus?

A few years ago, I was asked to facilitate a meeting where stakeholders were at odds with one another. The company wanted to add a new sales position to the sales force. However, the new position would have a direct impact on the existing office personnel in many of the remote offices, reducing hundreds of people’s responsibilities.

I was told, “You are going to have your hands full trying to get this group to agree.” I took that as a personal challenge and looked forward to seeing how things would evolve.

Consensus isn’t just about agreement. It’s about changing things around: You get a proposal, you work something out, people foresee problems, you do creative synthesis. At the end of it, you come up with something that everyone thinks is okay. Most people like it, and nobody hates it. -David Graeber

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How to Perform the Nominal Group Technique

How often have you needed to get meeting participants to identify and prioritize a list of items such as problems, solutions, or implementation ideas? This sounds simple, but often, participants disagree. The meeting can turn into quicksand.

Let’s pretend that you are planning to facilitate a session on the strengths of your organization. What technique would you use to capture their ideas? How would you prioritize the list and gain consensus?

I often use the Nominal Group Technique (NGT) for these purposes. Let’s take a look at what NGT is and how to perform it.

What is the NGT?

The nominal group technique is an efficient means for making complex decisions.  It is a particularly effective tool for larger groups.  The technique saves time, engages participants, and improves the probability of agreement.Continue reading

Do You Make These 3 Goal Mistakes?

In his book What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shared a Harvard study concerning MBA students who set goals. Harvard asked the graduating students, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”

It turned out that only 3 percent had written goals.

Ten years later, the researchers interviewed the students with written goals. These students were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent altogether.

If you want to make greater strides in life, write your goals and make them clear. Goals can help in every facet of life including financial, spiritual, physical, and relationships, to name a few. Let’s look at three goal mistakes that dilute the potency and potential results.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

1. Fuzzy goals. Great leaders and achievers are absolutely clear about what they wish to accomplish. Underachievers lack clarity about where they want to go and how they will get there. Fuzzy goals are safe but vague and ambiguous.

Here are some fuzzy goals:

  • Improve our customer service.

  • Become a better project manager.

  • Increase sales by end of 4th quarter.

  • Increase our membership.

These goals need specificity. When writing goals, consider these 4 questions:

  1. What action (e.g., increase, decrease, or maintain) will you take?

  2. What is the focal point (e.g., membership growth)?

  3. What is the target (e.g., 10,000 new members)?

  4. What is the deadline?

Using these questions, let’s refine the goals mentioned previously. The revised goals below are clear, engaging, and motivating.

  • Increase customer service rating from 85% to 92% by 6/30/x5.

  • Pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam by 9/30/x5.

  • Increase private passenger auto insurance sales by 5% by 12/31/X6.

  • Add 10,000 new members between 1/1/x5 and 12/31/x5.

2. Competing goals. Another problem is conflicts between goals. A family may have a goal to save money for their next vehicle and a goal to send two children to an expensive college.

An executive may require two different projects be completed at the same time with the same resources and a limited budget.

How can we address competing goals? Analyze and recognize the conflicts. Prioritize the deliverables and associated tasks. Break the goals into manageable tasks. See if the lower priority items may be delivered at a later date.

3. Stretch goals. Stretch goals challenge people to reach beyond their normal capacity. If done properly, stretch goals can be helpful. However, when management sets unreasonable expectations, people feel manipulated, used, and abused.

Team members burn the candle at both ends. Some individuals may take unethical actions. Others take excessive risk.

How can we set goals in a manner that challenges team members but makes the goal achievable? First, engage the team members in the goal process. Ask for their input. Second, find ways to enhance the team’s efficiency with appropriate tools and resources. Third, recognize and reward results. Say thank you.

Questions: What other mistakes do people make with goals? Please provide your insights in the comments section below.


Who Else Wants to Prioritize Items Quickly

Imagine that you have worked with a team in your company to complete a SWOT Analysis. Your team has defined four lists: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Each list has numerous items.

How can we prioritize lists quickly?

How can we reduce groupthink and ensure everyone has a voice in the process?

How can we make decisions stick?

Fortunately, there are some simple prioritization techniques designed for these purposes. These techniques are subjective but provide a quick way to prioritize any list.

1. Dot Voting. Participants are given a number of votes (sticky dots). For example, you might give 5 votes for 20 items or 10 votes for 40 items to each participant.

Participants may cast as many votes for a particular item as they desire.

Dot Voting - each participant cast their votes by placing sticky dots on their top choices.

Dot Voting – each participant cast their votes by placing sticky dots on their top choices.

Total votes. Order items from highest to lowest. Discuss and refine the results.

2. 10-4 Method. Each participant is given a total of 10 votes. Participants may cast 1 to 4 votes for a particular item.

Ask participants to write down their top choices and votes. Conduct a round robin and ask for each person’s choices and votes. Capture the results.

Total votes. Order items from highest to lowest. Discuss and refine the results.

3. 3-2-1 Method. Ask participants to write down their top three choices and values. Participants rank the items by assigning a value of 3 to their top choice, a value of 2 to the second highest choice, and a value of 1 to the third highest.

Conduct a round robin and ask for each person’s choices and values. Capture the results.

3-2-1 Method - participants select 3 choices and gives a value of 3 to their top choice, 2 to their next choice, and 1 the their last choice.

3-2-1 Method – participants select 3 choices and gives a value of 3 to their top choice, 2 to their second highest choice, and 1 to their third highest choice.

Total the values. Order items from highest to lowest. Discuss and refine the results.

These techniques have worked for me, and I think they will work for you too. Got a list of projects or requirements or strategies you need to prioritize? Give one of these techniques a try.

Question: What other techniques do you use to prioritize items quickly?