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Chapter 8. Conducting Decision-Making Meetings

Introduction

Most people are not trained for group participation and decision making, yet day after day we sit in meetings to air a few sides of complex issues and then vote on implementation - and may the most vocal contingent win! Many automatically consider group decisions as poor ones, or at least worse than decisions made by individuals. When decisions are processed without being well considered, the results are likely to be poor. Wait a minute! Wasn't the last chapter about issues being well considered? Yes, discussion starts with problem solving - and continues in decision making. This section shows some specifics of decision making and polishes the discussion skills developed thus far by emphasizing questioning techniques and developing criteria for making good decisions.

Advantages of Group Decision Making

Johnson and Johnson in Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills define effective group decisions as having these characteristics:

  1. the resources of group members are fully realized;

  2. time is well used;

  3. the decision is correct or of high quality;

  4. the decision is implemented fully by all the required group members;

  5. the problem-solving ability of the group is enhanced, or at least not lessened.

These authors cite studies that illustrate the power of group decision making. The first advantage is that of "process gain," in which interacting with others causes most people to think new thoughts that they wouldn't have had by considering the issue individually. The second advantage is that thinking errors or blind spots can be more easily recognized and addressed by groups. A third advantage is that groups have more accurate recall of events or factual information than individuals. A fourth advantage is that groups encourage achievement by members helping one another and giving encouragement. Humans just try harder when others give social support and cooperation! Competitiveness, fear of punishment, and embarrassment are lessened by group membership. Called "social facilitation," this process strengthens group decision making.

A fifth advantage is that involving others in decision making increases commitment in implementing the decisions that are made. Through discussion, people learn new information which may cause them to modify their opinions. They also hear persuasive arguments that may cause them to reconsider the issues. Especially if brainstorming has occurred, unique ideas may be brought to light. Additionally, people discern in discussion thoughts and impressions that are common to all in the group, so that underlying issues and ideas become apparent. Plus, in discussion, people's training and experiences add to the resources available to the group.

So what's not to like about group decision making! Well conducted, group discussions and subsequent decisions can change attitudes and behavior in people. Process determines outcome. Being able to conduct decision-making meetings is a powerful tool in meeting management!

Leader Role in Decision-Making Discussion

Remember why leaders call meetings? Primarily, they want information or advice or help solving a problem. In other words, input is needed from workers. If it is being done right, members will efficiently use their resources (work information, experience, special skills or knowledge) to arrive at high quality decisions that will be implemented fully. This is a tall order!

How does leader behavior figure in this scheme? Leaders can succeed or fail based on their meeting behavior! An authoritative person who admonishes or lectures a group and then asks for a decision can expect little effort in implementation. Add a little arrogance or insensitivity to the mix and leaders stir up resentment, as well. Guess what happens to implementation efforts! A participative leader who listens and encourages a group to arrive at its own conclusions can expect implementation of decisions without much further ado. Meeting leaders need to decide which results are desired.

Is an authoritative position always wrong? No! When decisions don't require committed action from group members, or when coordination of members' activities is simple and easy, or when decisions have to be made quickly, an authoritative role is appropriate. So don't think that the ONLY way to make decisions is to arrive at consensus! In the situations just mentioned, leaders go and do. However, if quick implementation and good morale are integral to a decision, leaders should use participative styles.

Kurt Lewin (1951) did classic experiments during World War II to discover how to change people's attitudes and behaviors. Good cuts of meat were in short supply, so shoppers were encouraged to buy kidneys and sweetbreads. Those who promised aloud to buy the less desirable cuts carried through their verbal commitment at far greater rates than those who promised privately. Another study asked college students to set goals for their reading and exam scores. Half verbalized their commitment; half did not. At mid-semester, the publicly committed students averaged 86-percent improvement compared to 14-percent improvement of others. Spoken commitment helps to change behavior and attitudes. Further, when consensus is felt in groups, social support for changing is enhanced. This is why group decision making is important to organizations and to leaders.

Gaining Consensus

How do meeting leaders get others to commit verbally to new behaviors? Through consensus! It's defined as group solidarity in sentiment and belief. In practice, distinguishing between consensus and majority rule is sometimes difficult. Majority vote is probably the most common group decision-making procedure used today. Most people consider it democratic since it resembles our election system - 51 percent of the vote wins. The problem is that the other 49 percent may feel a sense of loss and feel compromised. Arguments may occur just for the sake of argument, rather than having a basis in reasoning, and knowing they are in the minority causes some people to withhold their resources from groups. They may be in a position to sabotage implementation as well.

Achieving consensus takes longer, but it is more effective if everyone's contributions are needed for implementation. Even a degree of consensus can be superior to majority vote. In consensus, it is important that everyone in the group feels he or she had a fair chance at influencing the final outcome. This means that sufficient time was allowed for all to state their views, all felt understood, opposite views were heard, and ultimately all will support whatever decision is made. When differences arise, groups will ask for more information, clarify issues, and try for a better outcome.

Group leaders should encourage airing opposing viewpoints and the reasoning and information behind these viewpoints. They must encourage all members to participate, discourage "giving in" to opposing viewpoints just to avoid conflict, and express acceptance of differing viewpoints, especially minority views. The challenge is to get the group to come up with a decision which all can support.Create a sense of gain, not loss! People will feel senses of unity and personal ownership in the decisions made.

GAINING CONSENSUS

(getting all to feel they had a fair chance to influence the outcome)

  • Allow time for all to state their views.

  • Ensure understanding of all views.

  • Encourage opposing viewpoints.

  • Clarify reasoning and information for viewpoints.

  • When differences occur, clarify issues and gather information; try for a better consensus statement.

  • Discourage "giving in" just to avoid conflict.

  • Arrive at a decision all can support.

  • Create a sense of gain, not loss!

Clearly, leader behavior and meeting conduct are important to people in organizations as they carry out decisions that are made. How to ensure that everyone feels heard and viewpoints are stated and clarified? Ask questions!

Asking Questions

An important skill for meeting leaders is that of questioning in order to draw out ideas and information and to involve participants in a meeting. Leaders must probe to get at ideas, support participants when they make contributions, and listen attentively as people talk.

PROBING involves asking speakers:

The most common probe is "Why." Avoid using this on personal matters, of course, since the answer might be embarrassing. Try not to threaten anyone when asking them to supply more information. Just ask for clarification - "Do you mean...?" and then, "What would be the consequences of that?" Asking how a suggestion relates to other issues under consideration is another useful probe. Also asking respondents to make generalizations from their statements helps others to understand their positions better.

Leaders asking questions cause meeting attendees to respond. Don't ask so many questions, however, that the meeting resembles an interrogation. Plan your questions in advance and keep them at a minimum, since the hope is that attendees themselves will ask some questions. If leaders question too much, people are talking to them, not one another, which is the idea of a discussion. People need to talk to each other to agree or disagree with a point, to add information to a statement made, or to raise a question themselves.

Questions are important in getting attention, maintaining interest, and receiving feedback. When leaders ask questions, they can determine the comprehension, understanding, and agreement of participants. Don't ask questions when you already know the answers. Ask the attendees questions that call on their experiences or their opinions. Make your first ones easy to answer, just to get the information-sharing ball rolling!

Goal

Questions to Ask

To get information

Begin with "what, where, when, why, who, how, and how much."

To broaden discussion

How would you do that?

How would that help the problem?

What things should we think about?

To verify information

Where did you hear that?

Have you tried this?

To test assumptions

What would happen if we tried this?

If we do it differently, will it work?

To voice your opinion

Would this idea work?

Would you be willing to try this?

To reach agreement

Which of these plans do you like?

Which idea can we all support?

Do we all agree this is what we want?

SUPPORTING is a nonverbal as well as verbal skill. When leaders encourage participation from shy or silent persons, praise people for words or actions, or relieve tension with humor, they are supporting participants. Making eye contact, smiling at people, and focusing discussion on someone's response to a question tell attendees that they are doing fine and their contributions are appreciated. Another way to support groups as they participate in meetings is through listening.

WRONG WAYS TO LISTEN

Good listening means that leaders should be able to repeat back everything others have said, plus understanding their feelings about the subject. Check with others by saying, "What I heard you say was....Is that right?" If a lot of emotion came out with the words, reflect the emotion: "You really sound frustrated!" These steps make people feel heard, along with the open-forum effect of speaking candidly within a group. When others are speaking, don't play with a pen or fidget and try not to interrupt them, even though you may sense what they are about to say. Being attentive tells folks that what they're saying is important - it's worth listening to.

Kristen, in Accounting, says, "Time is money," and does ledgers while people are in her office because it saves time. "They must have time to burn!" A junior accountant scheduled a meeting to discuss standard costs that he thought could be reduced. Kristen had a better idea, so she jumped right in and set everyone in the meeting straight. Expecting thanks for helping with a new idea, Kristen was surprised when her boss said, "Kristen, sometimes people feel you don't listen to them." "I think I listen," Kristen mused, wondering how to get better at this.

Listening is active, not passive! Face speakers and make eye contact, bending or leaning toward them slightly. Take notes or have a Recorder take notes as you dictate, and wait three to five seconds after people finish before speaking, which assures them that no one is waiting anxiously to talk. Follow the content being discussed, smile when something is humorous, nod in agreement from time to time. Listen noncritically; hear speakers out and check for understanding before discussing their messages. "I'd really like to hear more about the plant meeting. Do you have a few more minutes?" "I hadn't thought of doing it that way. Guess we should check with your area first. Any other ideas we should know about?"

Clarify what people say to be sure exactly what speakers mean. Ask questions or rephrase an unclear statement and ask if the restatement is correct. "In other words, people are quitting because of this problem?" "Normal turnaround has been 48 hours; you're saying it now takes longer?" While listening, begin putting what's said into your own words, so that the meaning of it is clear. Then give speakers a chance to correct misunderstandings. "I guess I missed your point. You don't dislike the new policy, but you do think implementation time and cost will be excessive. Is that closer to your meaning?"

Questioning Techniques

In groups of 30 or fewer people, these are techniques for questioning:

Try to use names, rather than "Hey, you!" in essence. Use name tents or a seating chart, something to personalize your meeting.

In larger groups, more than 30, encourage short answers and hint at an answer to get people involved:

Avoid asking, "Are there any questions?" PLAN your questions and make them interesting to participants. Good questions help people understand and remember meeting content.

In answering questions from the audience, make sure they know there will be no ridicule or sarcasm in the answer. Never do or say anything to make questioners feel stupid or foolish. Ask for questions on specific statements or ideas just covered: "Do you have questions on step three of the implementation schedule?" If no one has a question, but there really should be some to avoid misunderstanding, say, "One of the most frequent questions at this stage is _____." Then the attendees understand that you really want them to ask questions. When you are asked a question, repeat it for the sake of those who didn't hear. This helps focus attention on the question and lets the questioner know the query is important.

Common answering mistakes include:

  1. Answering too much. Keep answers short and concise. Long answers shut the attendees' responses down. The idea is for them to talk, not you.

  2. Answering too soon. Interrupting speakers because you know what they are going to say is rude. Allow the group time to think of their responses. A pause or silence just says they are thinking about the question.

  3. Answering one person and continuing a dialogue. The rest of the people lose interest when this goes on too long. Offer to talk further after the meeting, break eye contact, and move on.

Now that the leader role in decision making has been detailed, gaining consensus has been outlined, and questioning has been thoroughly considered, what else is needed in decision-making meetings? In problem solving, a problem is identified and analyzed. In decision making, criteria establishment is first, before leaders and groups can evaluate alternatives and decide on a plan of action. Implementation of the plan, assigning tasks and responsibilities, and scheduling will not be discussed here. These will vary considerably among organizations with different operating procedures.

Criteria Making

Remember the five alternatives produced in the problem-solving meeting? In the decision-making meeting, the goal is to decide which of these alternatives is the best of the five. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to put the five alternatives on an overhead, ask people to vote (majority rule), and that's that. The flaw here is not allowing for discussion and full understanding of the ramifications of each alternative - deliberation of these choices. So the end result here is not to race through this decision-making process just to get it done. It is to get everyone to consider each alternative carefully, giving special attention to the context of the situation, driving forces for and against, and who would be affected by each choice. Then, and only then, the group selects the best alternative. Leader behavior determines more crucially than in any other type of meeting the responses of people in the workforce at implementing decisions made here. Remember that meeting process determines outcome!

A better way to consider solutions to the problem outlined in the previous meeting is to create criteria with which to judge the effect of each alternative. As an example from the last chapter concerning saving adolescents, the alternatives created could be:

  1. Educational institutions create school programs and scheduling better suited to adolescent development and interests.

  2. Parents re-engage themselves with their young teens, offering more hands-on guidance, rules, and family activities.

  3. Employers provide family-friendly policies: parental leave, and so on.

  4. Youth organizations expand to reach out to this age group; organizations should be sanctioned by parents, schools, and communities.

  5. The media is held more responsible for promoting better role models and "good kids," rather than glamourizing violence, sex, and drugs.

The meeting objective is: to choose the most acceptable way to meet the needs of young adolescents. (Other objectives possible: Which alternative to implement first or which alternative is most doable in our community, given its resources and other factors.)

Criteria usually concern:

Of course, this list names just a few considerations for criteria, but it's a start. Try not to use feasibility as a criterion, since it's a vague term that gives an overall approach, rather than specific concerns reflected in this list. The key for developing good criteria is to be as specific as possible. Envision the situation, then think of all the people affected by the problem, then think of what community resources exist or organizational resources could be tapped to address the problem.

For the purpose of this example, use any of the following:

Implementation time

Cost / benefit ratio

Responsible organization acceptance

Parental acceptance

Young adolescent acceptance

Long-term effectiveness  

Openness to influence / public pressure  

Coordination required

In effect, think about everything it would take to carry out these alternatives. The trick is to find criteria that apply to ALL the alternatives. If a criterion will only apply to one or two of your alternatives, it won't be useful in distinguishing between the alternatives. (Don't use feasibility!) Also distinguish clearly between your criteria. Using "time to implement" and "cost to implement" puts heavy attention on implementation questions, rather than the issue being considered. Choose criteria from separate areas of concern as much as possible; it makes for clearer information processing. If, indeed, a criterion is worthy of being considered more seriously or should be given more weight in deliberation, ask the participants to double the numbers they assign to that particular criterion.

Returning to the example of neglect of adolescents, make a grid for the alternatives and supply space for write-in criteria. Let the group select criteria from the list provided or from their own ideas.

Present this grid to participants in some way: digital projector, whiteboard, flipchart, chalkboard, or whatever; just create it before your meeting.

Meeting Objective: To choose the most acceptable way to meet the needs of young adolescents (1014 years old)

Alternatives  

Totals

Better school programs / scheduling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents re-engage with teens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Employers make family-friendly fix

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanded youth organizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media promote good, not bad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legend:

1

2

3

4

5

 

Acceptable

graphics/02fig03.gif     graphics/02fig03.gif

Unacceptable

 

It's also good to have it on your meeting agenda, something each person can see clearly and work with. Then have the group choose criteria for these alternatives. Meeting leaders need to consider criteria ahead of time and possibly make up a list as has been done in this example. However, it's important to include meeting attendees in the selection process. Let them think of criteria to use here as well. Ask them to vote as a group or have different people select one criteria or have them eliminate criteria from a list provided - make a group decision as to which criteria to use. Have the Recorder write in their selections, like this:

Meeting Objective: To choose the most acceptable way to meet the needs of young adolescents (1014 years old)

Alternatives  

Parental Acceptance

Young Adolescent Acceptance

Openness to Influence

Cost / Benefit Ratio

Execution Time

Totals

Better school programs / scheduling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents re-engage with teens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Employers make family-friendly fix

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanded youth organizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media promote good, not bad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legend:

1

2

3

4

5

 

Acceptable

graphics/02fig03.gif     graphics/02fig03.gif

Unacceptable

 

In this example, then, the group is looking for the one alternative which parents and young adolescents are most willing to accept, the one in which the organization named is open to influence or pressure, the one in which the cost of the alternative is acceptable in terms of the benefits, and the one which could be implemented most quickly.

Meeting leaders should summarize this selection for the group and ask them once again if these are the most important things they want to weigh in considering the alternatives. If the answer is yes, then remind them of the legend and ask them to assign a number as a vote for the alternative, given the criteria under consideration. For example, do participants think that parents would accept "better school programs or scheduling?" If so, enter a 1; if not, enter a 5; if maybe so, maybe not, enter a 2, 3, or 4, depending on the strength of belief. Then, ask whether young adolescents would accept better programs / scheduling; if so, enter 1 or 2; if not, enter 4 or 5, and so on. Then continue by asking whether schools would be open to influence or pressure from the public. Then ask if better programs or scheduling would be most beneficial in terms of costs to maintain these programs. Then ask how long it presumably would take to implement the programs / scheduling; enter a number to indicate an acceptable or unacceptable time length.

Proceed to the next alternative "parents re-engaging with teens." Remember that this will take time and effort on the part of parents - time away from work, effort to set up rules (like curfew) and carry through with these, scheduling family meals and time together. If parents are likely to accept this alternative, enter 1, and so on. Would young teens accept being more involved with their parents? Would parents be open to carry out this family change? Would the cost to parents be worth the benefit to family? How long would this take to implement?

Keep going through the alternatives with the perspective of each criterion in mind. Going across the grid is usually faster for groups, but going down is also fine to do. Ask groups to add up the totals going across to find their most acceptable alternative. Adding by going down will show the response to each criterion. Meeting leaders might want to ask groups, especially, which alternative was first choice and which criterion was most important to them. If the meeting format is ordinary group or nominal group, have individuals tell which alternative is their choice and which criterion was most important. This information tells meeting leaders what underlying concerns may be present among the participants. Also, if there are disparities in numbering, leaders should make sure these are differences of opinion, not rating errors. In groups, for example, the group recorder could enter a 1 when the group registered a 5, or the group may have gotten confused and voted the opposite of what they felt. This numbering system should produce areas for discussion as groups or individuals compare their thinking and voting.

Which alternative in the example will win? Probably the expanded youth organizations, given the criteria selected. Parents would like these, pre-teens certainly would like them since they'd have more opportunity to be with friends and form new friendships, plus explore their possibilities or developing interests. Youth organizations could be readily influenced. The cost may be a significant factor, but if the community sees a difference in young teens' behaviors or attitudes, any cost might be worth the expense. Plus civic organizations could share the expense through sponsoring youth organizations. Implementation time could be shorter with youth group expansion than with schools offering different programs or employers changing policies or sending media an effective message. An added benefit of youth group expansion is that parental involvement might be increased as well, structuring time between preteens and parents.

Meeting leaders need to draw out this information from participants in discussions by asking questions and having a clear sense of where the meeting is likely to end up. Even though the outcome isn't predictable, leaders can have a fair idea about how the selection process will turn out, through assessing the alternatives themselves and considering the context in which the meeting takes place. For example, affluent communities might select the most expensive alternative since money might not be an obstacle for them, whereas poorer communities might favor more of a let's-all-pitch-in-to-help, less money oriented choice, like parents re-engaging or asking employers for concessions. All this adds to discussion, and that's a major purpose in decision-making meetings!

Meeting success also depends on good criteria (listed along top line of table). Here are some examples.

Meeting Objective: To find the best way to make people aware of heart disease and heart attack

Alternatives  

Acceptance of Sponsoring Institutions

Overall Effectiveness

Cost to Maintain Program

High School / College Acceptance

Audience Reached

Totals

Educate the young

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health club incentive plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warning signs on high-fat food

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seminars for college students

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internet messages / blogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legend:

1

2

3

4

5

 

Acceptable

graphics/02fig03.gif     graphics/02fig03.gif

Unacceptable

 


Meeting Objective: To decide the best way to curb teenage smoking

Alternatives  

Prevention Cost / Benefits

Short-Term Effectiveness

Adult / Parent Participation Needed

Acceptance of Teens

Market Size Reached

Totals

Educate teens in health classes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encourage joining school clubs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punish illegal sales to teens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrities promote no smoking

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Scared straight" conferences

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legend:

1

2

3

4

5

 

Workable

graphics/02fig03.gif     graphics/02fig03.gif

Unworkable

 



Outline for Decision-Making Meeting

Opening

Show some pizzazz here! Give an opener that focuses interest in the topic. Reintroduce yourself, Facilitator, and Recorder. (1 min.)

Background

Give a good review of your topic here. Go through the first and second meetings, summarizing the content. OK to reshow overheads used then. Why listen to the topic? (What's In It For Me?). (3 min.) Go over alternatives from problem solving, explaining them or expanding on them. Let us absorb your ideas again. (34 min.)

Preview

Tell the meeting plan you have. Are we going to separate into groups? Will we represent different factions? Will we write stuff on the board or do you have a different way to report numbers? (Poster board, transparencies, BIG paper, etc.) Are we ranking or rating? Will your Recorder and Facilitator collect numbers or will we do this by group report? Do you want a group representative to come up to the front to talk about group decisions, since people pay more attention this way? (2 min.)

Body

Select criteria. Have some criteria up your sleeve to fill in the blanks if the audience doesn't respond. Having some criteria already written is OK, but ask group for more. No matter how you plan to gather the numbers, put your grid on the agenda. People need something in their hands when matching criteria and alternatives. Have Recorder write in criteria selected. Then start your discussion plan: ordinary group, small group, nominal group, whatever. If small groups are used, give all instructions before anyone moves. (5 min.)

When the numbers start coming in, question big differences between numbers (3-point differences on a scale of 5). Ask groups/people to explain their thinking. Ask if groups/people want to change their numbers after a brief discussion. Lead the discussion. (5 min.)

When all the numbers are in, talk to the groups to see what each thought was the best alternative and which criterion was most important for them. Do this while your Recorder and Facilitator are adding up numbers. Don't stand there watching the Recorder and Facilitator work! You're in a meeting with the whole group! Ask a question, ask people to share their views, talk to them! (2 min.)

When the best alternative emerges, ask if the alternative makes sense as a solution to the problem posed. If it doesn't, ask people to explain and perhaps select another alternative. If two alternatives tie, work out a solution combining them. Also ask which criterion was most important and why. Scout for underlying truths. (3 min.)

Conclusion

Briefly track the content of all three meetings and the meeting objective and alternative chosen in this meeting. Then give a close to remember! Bring home one more time the importance of your topic. Last chance! (12 minutes)

No one likes to attend boring meetings! Be creative in planning and conducting this one. If everyone else uses small groups, use ordinary group or nominal group. A large sheet of paper across the front of the room serves as a useable grid, or put up posters for small groups and have the Recorder and Facilitator take in numbers for you on a master transparency. Have groups record their numbers on preprinted transparencies. Hand out treats! Give groups costumes to wear! Appeal to their sense of fun!

Comparing Alternatives

Announce the meeting objective; usually it is "to choose the best way to (do whatever the problem-solving meeting objective was)." Create several criteria and ask the group to add to the list (but think of several more just in case!). Make a list on the board or the overhead and provide the list of alternatives as well, so attendees can see both at the same time. Putting a grid on the agenda solves this problem. Then ask the group to select five criteria to use in making this decision. Why five? The time frame for this meeting is 25 to 30 minutes, and five alternatives measured against five criteria is about all anyone can accomplish. The criteria can be selected by hand vote, by polling people selected from the group, by voice vote - whatever method works.

When participants have supplied and selected the criteria they want to work with, have your Recorder put them in the grid. Ask people to write the criteria in the individual grids on the agenda, taking care to record the criteria in the right order - one agreeing with the master grid. Then, reveal your meeting plan to the participants. They will appreciate knowing exactly what they are to do when in the plan.

If factions or constituents with different perspectives on the problem exist, consider forming these into small groups which could, of course, vote in their own best interests. For example, if you're considering how to reform the welfare system, recipients of welfare funds would have different views from middle-class taxpayers, and both should have a say in the solution. Some groups will cancel each other out with their voting, but that's expected. The alternative chosen by both groups may be truly good!

In the example of neglected adolescents, a leader could ask one small group to represent parents, one to represent preteens themselves, one to represent employers, one for the media, and one for sponsors of youth organizations. Encourage groups to keep their particular mindset in operation during their deliberations. For example, if you were a preteen, do you think your parents or parents in general would accept better school programs and scheduling? If you were a preteen, would you accept this? As a preteen, do you think schools would be open to offering different programs and schedules? As a preteen, compare the cost of change to the benefits you could see. How long do you think it would take?

The idea of representation here is to ensure that all sides are heard. Consider asking each group to make a position statement to the others prior to voting. To make this fun, give the preteens lollipops. Make headbands with wrinkles drawn on them to depict the furrowed brows of parents. Tee shirts or paper sashes with names of youth organizations, ties or hard hats (or paper replicas) for employers, and press cards or toy cameras for the media would add to the spirit of the discussion.

Through the Legend, tell the group what numbering system you are using. For example, is 1 good and 5 bad or is 5 good and 1 bad? Also tell them whether you are rating or ranking. Rating means you can put any number to any alternative and have as many 2s or 4s or 5s as needed to express strength of opinion. Ranking means you have to assign 1 to one alternative only and 5 to another and then fill in with 2, 3, and 4. Put this information on an overhead or the board, so folks don't get confused.

Once again, what you are doing is asking the participants to consider each alternative in light of each criteria and assigning a number to signify agreement-disagreement, acceptability-unacceptability, and so on. The numbers chosen represent the degree or strength of conviction concerning the alternative and criterion. If the plan is to divide into groups, give complete instructions to the whole group before anyone moves. Once chairs start scraping and people seek out other group members, leaders can be drowned out in the noise. Folks usually aren't listening anyway at that point.

NOW, start carrying out the plan for discussion and voting. Either divide into small groups or use ordinary group format or nominal groups and ask them to assign numbers to each alternative from the standpoint of each criterion. Remember to include a legend wherever the grid is displayed. (Pluses and minuses usually don't work well, since it's hard to add and subtract them.)

YOUR ROLE IS TO RUN THE MEETING, NOT DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF!

After groups have finished their work, you, your Facilitator, and/or your Recorder take the numbers each group has come up with and put them in a grid on an overhead transparency, a poster, a BIG sheet of paper, something the whole group can see easily. Use a Recorder and Facilitator in this meeting. Common procedure is to have Facilitator and Recorder take in the numbers while you listen for discrepancies, like when one group gives a 5 and another gives a 1. You should stop the action and ask what their thinking was, so all can understand why the numbers varied so. Number differences of more than three deserve discussion. Ask groups, after they've listened to others' thinking, whether they want to change their numbers. Sometimes participants get numbers confused or the group recorder makes an error, so make sure the group didn't make a mistake with numbering.

After all the shouting is over and the numbers are on the grid, ask the whole group to select the "winner." Then ask if this makes sense in terms of the original meeting objective. This step is not the equivalent of spitting in the wind! Sometimes numbers don't produce a logical choice. If this is true, ask if the group wants to consider another alternative or if they wish to combine some. If time permits, talk briefly about how to implement the alternative.

Summarize BRIEFLY the information meeting, the problem solving meeting, the meeting objective for this meeting and the alternative selected as winner. Then close the meeting. Put some artfulness or cleverness in this. It's your last chance to remind the group of the importance of the topic. Saying thanks and sitting down abruptly isn't "good theatre." Meeting leaders work long and hard to get to this point. Glory in it!

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AGENDA FOR DECISION-MAKING MEETING

Meeting Objective:

Logistics

Date:

Time:

Location:

Meeting Members

1. Leader:

2. Attendees:

Meeting called by:

Phone:

Agenda Item

Process

Time

Who's Responsible

       
       


DECISION-MAKING MEETING CRITIQUE

LEADER:

OBSERVER:

PTS. POSSIBLE: 60  

PREPARATION:

   
 

Professional appearance

(3) _____

 

Quality & use of visual aids

(3) _____

 

Detailed agenda

(3) _____

PRESENTATION:                 

   

OPENING:

Reintroduce self & general topic

(1) _____

BACKGROUND:

Describe the problem; What's In It For Me

(5) _____

Review five alternatives

(3) _____

PREVIEW:

Session organization & what you expect people to do

(2) _____

BODY:

Lead group in setting up criteria (5 criteria minimum)

(5) _____

Lead group in comparing alternatives with criteria (5 alternatives minimum)

(10) _____

Lead group in selecting the best alternative; determine which criterion was most important  

(5) _____

CONCLUSION:

Review previous meetings & reiterate meeting objective & alternative chosen

(5) _____

Close meeting

(3) _____

PERFORMANCE:

   
 

Time management (25-30 minutes)

(3) _____

 

Vitality / leadership

(3) _____

 

Use of Recorder and Facilitator

(3) _____

 

Creativity; maintaining interest in topic

(3) _____

 

TOTAL POINTS EARNED

 

Comments:



OBSERVATION SHEET for Decision-Making Meeting

PRESENTER:

OBSERVER:

5 - Excellent 4 - Good 3 - Average 2 - Needs work 1 - Poor

PERSONAL PREPARATION

1.

Appropriate business attire

5

4

3

2

1

2.

Voice quality / tone

5

4

3

2

1

3.

Voice audibility

5

4

3

2

1

4.

Confidence displayed

5

4

3

2

1

PRESENTATION PREPARATION

5.

Good organization

5

4

3

2

1

6.

Meaningful topic / key point development

5

4

3

2

1

7.

Attention-getting opening / closing

5

4

3

2

1

8.

Easy-to-follow delivery

5

4

3

2

1

9.

Rehearsed performance

5

4

3

2

1

PROJECTION

10.

Vocal effectiveness (intonation, fillers, pauses)

5

4

3

2

1

11.

Audience interaction / eye contact

5

4

3

2

1

12.

Energy / enthusiasm portrayed

5

4

3

2

1

STRONG POINTS:

WORK ON:



DECISION-MAKING MEETING SELF-CRITIQUE / SINGLE CONFERENCE REPORT

Name:

General Topic:

Decision-making meeting objective:

Please type your answers to these questions. Be aware that these are open-ended questions intended for discussion, rather than "Oh, yes, I did that" answers. (Brevity is good, but pithy conciseness is beautiful.)

1.

After watching your video, comment on the visual impression you give. Do you look/act like you're truly leading this meeting?

2.

How well did the group understand your instructions for organizing your session? (Did they start to work immediately with little further instruction from you or did they look blank for a while and then ask what to do?) What could you have done differently?

3.

In comparing alternatives with the criteria, what did you find most difficult to do? Did you get frustrated trying to get others to agree?

4.

Was your summary complete and memorable?

5.

What are the major gains you've made in presenting information and conducting meetings, as evidenced in this videotape?



FINAL CONFERENCE REPORT

Directions: Watch your videoed conferences from beginning to end and respond to the questions asked. Title your responses after the main headings provided in these questions. Papers are expected to have appropriate wording, spelling, grammar, and expression.

IMPROVING

  1. Look at all three grading sheets for your conferences and list two major items you needed to improve. You may also use verbal feedback given at your meetings. What did you do to improve each of these? (2 pts.)

THINKING ON YOUR FEET

  1. Basically, this instruction improves the skill of thinking on your feet (TOYF). (Definition of thinking on your feet: processing information and transforming it into something useful in "real time," immediately.) Don't include your lack of planning:

    "I forgot to plan an opener, so I just made one up on the spot." TOYF is, "I dropped all my note cards and gave my talk from memory." Give three instances in which you had to TOYF during your conferences. (6 pts.)


CHOOSING TOPICS

  1. List the topic you chose and comment honestly on whether it was a wise choice. Why or why not? List two other good topics. (2 pts.)

CONDUCTING MEETINGS

  1. How important do you think it is to learn to present information and conduct problem-solving and decision-making meetings? Have you used these skills in other settings? Comment on the value of creating criteria for making decisions. (4 pts.)

Further directions: Create a cover sheet for this report. Include this:

FINAL CONFERENCE REPORT

by

(Your name)

(Class time)

In partial completion of the requirements for (Class title)

(Month, year)



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