Priority-Setting Techniques

Sometimes getting a group to decide on a focus can be very challenging. After you have agreement on the criteria for setting priorities, you could use either of the three methods - "dot" voting, weighted voting or consensus voting - depending on the time, resources and nature of the group.

  1. "Dot Voting:Give each member a certain number of "votes" using colored adhesive dots. The rule of thumb is each person gets a number of dots equal to 1/4 the number of items. Sorting and combining like ideas can be postponed until after voting, so time is not spent discussing low priority items. Re-voting can be done several times as ideas are sorted and clarified. Or, you invest time initial to clarifying and sorting the ideas, and vote later. The dot voting is a highly visual and simple method. The disadvantages are that it takes up majority opinion, and may alienated a minority group that could damage future group interaction.

  2. Weighted Voting: Points are assigned to individual rankings. For example, if the members is to rank the top five choices, 5 votes would be given to the first choice, 4 votes to the second, 3 votes to the third and so on. All individual scores for each item are then tallied and items can be ranked by total group score. Weighted voting is more accurate than straight voting in measuring member preferences. Weighted voting can also be conducted and tallied between meetings, so that group time is not spent on this task.

  3. Consensus decision: This is the most time-consuming method, but important where implementation of the decision will require the acceptance and committment of all groups members. Ground rules for building consensus are:
    1. Solicit all members in discussion.
    2. Avoid arguments.
    3. State all concerns (especially minority views).
    4. Listen to all concerns - Ask clarifying questions, paraphrase concerns.
    5. List pros and cons of each position on chart.
    6. If two positions conflict, look for a third which will reconcile differences.
    7. Get expression of support from all members before making decisions final.
    8. Don't change your opinion to keep the peace.