Chris Burns / Culture / June 2nd, 2014

Improve Team Collaboration and Trust with the Fist of Five

Team dynamics often get in the way of making the best decision on a project. Some groups are dominated by a leader who expects agreement. Other teams may have teammates who hesitate to voice their opinion. But since teamwork is such an integral part of what we do at 352, we’re always looking for ways to level the decision-making playing field. One of the most effective exercises we’ve found is the Fist of Five.

Fist of Five is an amazing tool that can help you quickly make decisions in a group, increasing collaboration and building trust within your teams.  It will dramatically increase your meeting productivity, and it can even make a huge difference in your life outside of the office.  Seriously. Here’s how it works.

Background

Group consensus used to not matter
Group consensus used to not matter

In the old days, making decisions was easy; all of the decision-making responsibility belonged to the boss.  A measure of their success was their ability to quickly choose a direction and encourage/cajole/force others to follow.

 

Fist-Of-Five-Peers
No more central leader

Fortunately, many companies have begun to recognize the value of the team. Even if you don’t work in an agile environment, teamwork is expected in modern workplaces. Unfortunately, this introduces new complexities for us to solve.

Problems

Have you ever been in a meeting full of peers (without that boss/leader) where a decision needed to be made?  Most likely you experienced one of the situations below.  If you haven’t, get three married couples together and have them choose a restaurant for dinner.  It’ll probably take 30 minutes and someone won’t be happy. And eventually, no one will be happy.

Problem 1: Everyone loves the idea

Fist-Of-Five-Agreement
Everyone talks about how much they love the idea

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where everyone loves the idea.  They love it so much, they keep telling each other how great it is.  Over,  and over  and over.

Problem 2: Maybe it’s ok?

Fist-Of-Five-Unknown
Can’t tell how opposed people are

Sometimes people will say something negative about a decision.  But where exactly do they stand?  Are they raising a concern because they want to solve this issue before they’re comfortable moving forward?  Or are they just letting the group know that there is a drawback, but it’s not a big deal and there’s no reason not to move forward.

 Problem 3: A few non-speakers

Fist-Of-Five-Quiet
Some aren’t contributing

Sometimes you’ll find that only a few people are actually talking and the rest are just sitting there quietly.  Why aren’t they involved?  Are they indifferent?  Avoiding confrontation?  Daydreaming?

Solution

The Fist of Five (some call it Fist to Five) quickly and easily gives you a quick read on the current status of the entire group.  When a Fist of Five is called, everyone in the group raises their hand and holds up their fist or 1 – 5 fingers.

0  Worst idea I've ever heard
1  I have some major concerns
2  I have some minor concerns
3  I'm ok with moving forward
4  I like this idea
5  I love this idea

The beauty is that if everyone in the group holds up a 3 or higher, you move forward.  The conversation is over; the decision has been made.

If someone is a 2 or lower, they immediately are given the floor, and they can explain their concerns.  The group should address those concerns so the person can become at least a 3.  Alternatively, there might not be a way to alleviate the concern and the group goes back to the drawing board to find a new solution.  Either way, you now know that every member is on board or you were just saved from a crisis down the road.

The first time you use this in a meeting, you’ll instantly see a difference.  Your meetings will arrive at better decisions much more quickly and everyone will leave the meeting in a much better mood.

So go ahead, throw your hands in the air.

Image credit: Y’some

  • http://www.bypete.com/ Pete

    Love this way to quickly get a team consensus. Also the fact that this close to Paper, Rock, Scissors makes it awesome.

  • http://www.bypete.com/ Pete

    Love this way to quickly get a team consensus. Also the fact that this close to Paper, Rock, Scissors makes it awesome.

  • Leonardo Rodrigues

    Great article Chris. The fist of five is a nice tool. I use it to gauge the level of confidence about an estimated backlog or story. I like the spin on leveling the ground for the different personalities on a team.

  • Leonardo Rodrigues

    Great article Chris. The fist of five is a nice tool. I use it to gauge the level of confidence about an estimated backlog or story. I like the spin on leveling the ground for the different personalities on a team.

  • http://alphadark.com/ TheRiz

    Excellent idea. Impressive.