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Newsletter 227
February 21, 2012

In This Issue...
Hartnett's CODM Model
Nominal Group Technique
Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model
Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Giving Feedback Bite-Sized Training
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  Make Better Group Decisions!

Are two (or more) heads better than one? If you've ever had to make a decision as part of a group, you'll know that this isn't always the case!

Hartnett's CODM Model makes it much easier to reach good group decisions - find out how to use it in this week's featured article.

Plus, we look at how Nominal Group Technique can help your group choose between options; and we explore how the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model can help you decide whether you should involve other people in decision-making.

We're also excited to report that our colleague, Helena, has finished her row across the Atlantic, after 75 days at sea. Well done, Helena!

  James & Rachel

  James Manktelow and Rachel Thompson
MindTools.com - Essential skills for an excellent career!
Featured Resources at Mind Tools
Hartnett's CODM Model
Developing Solutions Collectively

Find out how to make better group decisions by involving everyone in developing a solution. All Readers' Skill-Builder
Hartnett's Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making Model
Nominal Group Technique
Prioritizing Issues and Projects to Achieve Consensus

This technique helps your group prioritize options so that you can reach consensus with subjective decisions.
All Readers' Skill-Builder
Nominal Group Technique
The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model
Deciding How to Decide

Learn how to use the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Making Model to decide whether to include other people in a decision.
All Readers' Skill-Builder
The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model
... And from the Mind Tools Club
Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Solving Key Teamworking Problems

Learn how to recognize and overcome five common causes of poor team performance. All Members' Skill-Builder
Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen Speaker

This book looks at how your organization can continue to thrive, even in uncertain and unpredictable times. Find out more about it here. Premium Members' Book Insight
Great by Choice
Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is critically important for building great teams. Learn how to do this effectively. All Members' Bite-Sized Training™
Giving Feedback
Mind Tools Apps
Free Business Tools
on the Move

Download our free iPhone and iPad apps, and access more than 100 of our tools - in a format that's ideal for busy people.

Download Now
Mind Tools Apps
Mind Tools Apps

Mind Tools' Helena and her husband Richard coming into port at the end of their 75-day row across the Atlantic Ocean.
Editors' Choice Article
Hartnett's Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making (CODM) Model
Developing Solutions Collectively

You've just brought your team together to kick-off a new project. However, you quickly run into problems agreeing the right way forward.

Juan, the most dominant member of your team, immediately makes a suggestion and starts talking about its benefits. Katherine begins arguing with him, claiming that her idea is more efficient. Kerry, who often has brilliant ideas, is too overwhelmed by Juan and Katherine to speak up. You're soon ready to abandon the meeting!
CODM Model
Involve everyone in the decision-making process.
© iStockphoto/urbancow
If you work in a team, then this scenario may sound familiar. It can be difficult to get a group of people to reach consensus on a decision, especially when personalities, viewpoints, and attitudes clash.

In some situations, you can cut through these problems with decisive leadership (our article on the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model helps you think about when this is appropriate). In other situations, you need to find another way forward.

This is where Hartnett's Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making (CODM) model is useful. In this article, we'll look at the CODM model, and we'll examine how you can apply it when you need to make a good group decision.

About the Model

The CODM model was developed by psychologist, Dr. Tim Hartnett, and it was published his 2010 book "Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making."

The model uses a seven-step process. The steps are:
  1. Framing the problem.
  2. Having an open discussion.
  3. Identifying underlying concerns.
  4. Developing proposals.
  5. Choosing a direction.
  6. Developing a preferred solution.
  7. Closing.
By using the model, you can get everyone in the group involved in developing a solution, so that each person feels ownership of the final decision. This helps you build a more productive, committed team.

The model also encourages people to come up with creative ideas without fear of being judged. This helps the group develop better solutions and make better decisions.

The model is most useful for complex projects and problems, where you need to decide on the best way forward, and where the solution to your problem isn't clear. However, you can tailor it to a variety of other situations as well.

It's important to remember that consensus means general agreement, not total agreement. Although this model allows everyone to participate in developing solutions, not everyone will always agree with the final decision.

How to Apply the CODM Model

We'll now look at the seven steps in greater detail, and explore how you can apply the model with a group.

Don't feel that you have to work through these steps all at once - sometimes it will take several meetings to complete the process, depending on the complexity of the decision that you need to make.

Step 1: Framing the Problem

In this first step, you need to ensure that you have the right people involved in the process, and that everyone has the information, tools, and resources needed to come up with good ideas.

As part of this, identify and define the problem that you need to address, if necessary using tools such as Cause and Effect Analysis and Root Cause Analysis.

You also need to decide how your group will choose between options in later stages (Hartnett calls this the "decision rule"). For instance, do you want everyone in the group to agree on the final decision unanimously, or will a simple majority suffice? (Our article on Organizing Team Decision-Making looks at several techniques that you can use to make group decisions, and our article on facilitation teaches the skills needed to lead the discussion.)

Step 2: Having an Open Discussion

Next, meet with the group, present the problem again, and encourage an open discussion. Your goal here is to generate as many initial ideas or solutions to the problem as possible.

Use tools such as Round-Robin Brainstorming (members), Crawford's Slip Writing Method (members), or the Stepladder Technique to get everyone involved in the discussion.

If the discussion seems to be in a rut or your team is generating only "safe" ideas, use creative thinking techniques to encourage people to come up with fresh ideas.

Remember that your objective is to get people to think creatively and encourage all ideas, even if these seem impractical at this stage.

As you work through this step, note down all ideas, removing any duplicates. You'll return to this list in step 4.

An alternative approach is to ask people to submit their initial ideas and solutions anonymously, before you meet face-to-face.

Step 3: Identifying Underlying Concerns

The next step is to identify what Hartnett calls "underlying concerns" - these are the constraints that you need to meet, and the problems that you want to solve, once you've made a decision. You'll then use this analysis to come up with and improve solutions in the next step of the process.

Start by exploring what these concerns are with your group.

Then, identify key stakeholders (including people outside your organization) who are affected by the decision. (Depending on your situation, you can do this by simply brainstorming stakeholders, or you can conduct a formal stakeholder analysis.)

Talk to these stakeholders, or brainstorm and list possible underlying concerns for each of them, again ensuring that everyone in the group participates in the discussion.

Don't confuse underlying concerns with solutions in this step. For example, if the problem you're trying to solve is to increase the quality of a product, a solution might be to use better components. However, underlying concerns might be to keep costs to a minimum (for shareholders), or to be able to use the product for longer (for customers).

Step 4: Developing Proposals

Now, using the initial ideas that you came up with in step 2, your group can come up with proposals that address the underlying concerns identified in the previous step.

To do this, go through each idea in turn, and encourage everyone in the group to contribute to developing it into a possible solution.

Again, it's important that everyone is open-minded about the discussion, that everyone focuses on one idea at a time, and that people don't criticize any ideas.

By the end of this step, you will have developed initial ideas into more-detailed proposals that you can take forward. Don't dismiss any proposals yet.

Step 5: Choosing a Direction

You now need to decide on the best proposal to take forward.

Begin by going through each proposal in turn, asking group members to highlight what they think are the pros and cons of each one. Again, make sure that everyone is involved in the discussion.

Finally, decide on the best proposal to take forward, using the "decision rule" that you agreed on in step 1.

See our articles on Grid Analysis, Multi-Voting (members) and Nominal Group Technique for some great ways of choosing between proposals.

Step 6: Developing a Preferred Solution

The aim of this step it to look for ways to improve the final proposal further.

As part of this, look back at the underlying concerns that you identified in step 3. If there are any concerns that you haven't addressed, look for ways in which you can improve the proposal.

Again, encourage group members to raise any further issues, and amend the final proposal to address these.

Tip 1:
If you're developing a solution for a complex project, it may take a while to refine and amend your proposal and project documents.

Tip 2:
Depending on the type of decision, it may still not be worth going ahead with the best proposal. See our article on Go/No-Go Decision-Making (members) for more on this.

Step 7: Closing

By now, you should have a solution that most people in the group are happy with. To confirm this, use the "decision rule" that you identified in step 1 to ensure that there is still consensus to move forward with your decision.

Depending on your situation, you can also use this step as an opportunity to ask for everyone's cooperation in implementing the final decision. This cooperation can be anything from simply supporting others as they implement the solution, through to providing resources and expertise.

Tip 1:
Be flexible in how you apply each step of the process. As we highlighted earlier, in some situations it may not be necessary to work through each step in detail. You also need to be prepared to move back to previous steps, if you cannot decide on an appropriate solution.

Tip 2:
While seeking consensus within a group is important, be aware that people may use consensus as a way to avoid taking personal responsibility for their actions or decisions. Don't allow this to happen.

Key Points

The CODM model was developed by psychologist, Dr. Tim Hartnett, and was published in his 2010 book "Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making." You can use it to make better group decisions by involving everyone in developing a solution.

The model is most useful where you need to decide on the best way forward with complex projects and problems, and where the solution to your problem isn't clear.

There are seven steps that you can follow to use the model:
  1. Framing the issue.
  2. Having an open discussion.
  3. Identifying underlying concerns.
  4. Developing proposals.
  5. Choosing a direction.
  6. Developing a preferred solution.
  7. Closing.
Be flexible in how you apply the model - it won't always be necessary to work through each step in detail.
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A Final Note

Make sure that you consider using these techniques when you have to make a decision as a group. You'll significantly increase your chances of making a great decision, and everyone involved will be more satisfied, too.

Next week, we're looking at how you can avoid perfectionism, at the same time that you strive for excellence in a healthy way.

Until then, all the best!

James Manktelow

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