In a facilitated discussion, the group seeks to arrive at an agreed decision after all viewpoints have been entertained. The facilitator does not make the decision because this is not his responsibility. The role of a facilitator when it comes to decision-making is more of assisting and leading the group to achieve a common understanding of the issues discussed. When the participants share common interests and opinions, a conclusion is easier to achieve.
On the other hand, when the members have conflicting ideas, this is where the facilitator is challenged to get the group on a harmonious ground. Basically, this is what the facilitator does. Imagine a class without a teacher or a meeting without a chairperson. No one will traffic the group interaction and chaos will likely be the result.
Facilitation is a skill and an art in handling or dealing with the diversity and differences of the participants in working toward a shared goal or commitment. Experienced facilitators may have gathered and learned various techniques in supervising a group discussion and helping the group manage through conflicts. In this article, we will learn the basic skill in managing a group decision-making process.
Simple Structure in Reaching a Group Decision
Following the agenda of the session, the ground rules must always be established and implemented before commencing with the discussion proper. The facilitator must ensure that everyone is in agreement with the set rules to avoid conflict. Normally, there is a structure in coming up with a decision from each agenda item.
The first process is the discussion of the subject or agenda item. Participants are encouraged to express their viewpoints to collect more information of the topic at hand. During the discussion, the general direction of the group and possible action plans are sometimes identified.
The next step is the formation of a proposed conclusion. Possible solutions are presented to the group based on the course of the discussion. After which, the facilitator calls for a consensus. In this stage, the facilitator may conduct a nomination procedure or simple hand gestures of the members. This process makes it easy for the group to arrive at an agreed decision.
However, if there are objections or oppositions, then the facilitator must identify and address these concerns. Just make sure though that there is sufficient time for another round of discussion to clarify some issues. Otherwise, keep it noted and park it for future discussion.
Lastly, if there is a need to modify or reinstate the proposal, then this makes the last step in the structure.
Arriving at a Consensus
Ideally, a consensus decision-making is a process that works effectively for a group decision making. It does not just seek the agreement of the members, but also rectifies certain oppositions. When facilitating a session or a seminar, this technique is helpful. In a decision-making process, a consensus decision-making should be participatory, cooperative, solution-oriented, and logical.
It is participatory in a way that all members of the session should solicit their ideas and suggestions about the topic discussed. All these inputs will be very helpful in reaching possible solutions. A consensus process is cooperative in a sense that the participants should strive to achieve the best possible decision, one that is shared and agreed upon by the group, after ironing out some discrepancies.
Of course, it should aim to be goal-oriented. Participants, with the help of the facilitator, must put importance on reaching an agreement instead of just dwelling over differences. This can be achieved by using compromise or other methods to eventually resolve conflicts and attain the goals. For a consensus process to be successful, the agreed solution and decision must be achievable and realistic.
When Decisions are not Made
A professional facilitator always strives for the best possible outcome but also expects and prepares for the worst to come. In a decision-making process, there may be instances when the group finds it hard to reach a common ground. If this happens, just confidently inform the group that you are noting that as a “parking” issue and it will be addressed again before the session ends. This will create a smooth flow of discussion. Moreover, all agenda items will be discussed with this kind of approach.