Table of Contents, Meeting Management Resources Page Previous Section, Meeting Management Next Section, Meeting Management

Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

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:

  • whose acceptance would be needed to implement an alternative;

  • whether sponsoring organizations would accept the responsibility;

  • the time required to implement the alternative;

  • the cost of maintaining a program once established;

  • the long- or short-term effectiveness of the alternative;

  • the audience or market reached by the alternative if implemented

  • the cost/benefit ratio;

  • the number of personnel needed to carry out the alternative;

  • the amount of time required from volunteers;

  • the coordination required between institutions and other contributors.

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: overhead transparency, flipchart, posterboard, chalkboard, whiteboard, whatever; just create it before your meeting.

Meeting Objective: To choose the most acceptable way to meet the needs of young adolescents (10–14 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

 
graphics/arrow.gif  

Acceptable

 

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 (10–14 years old)

Alternatives

Parental Acceptance

Young Adolescent Acceptance

Openness to Influence

Cost/Benefit Ratio

Implementation 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

 
graphics/arrow1.gif

Acceptable

     

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. Here are some examples.

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

Alternatives

Criteria

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/brochures

           

Legend:

1

2

3

4

5

graphics/arrow2.gif

Acceptable

     

Unacceptable

 

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

Alternatives

Criteria

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" convocations

           

Legend:

Rating:

1=workable

5=unworkable

 
  graphics/arrow3.gif  
 

(any numbers in between OK to use)

 

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? (WIIFM). (3 min.) Go over alternatives from problem solving, explaining them or expanding on them. Let us absorb your ideas again. (3–4 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! (1–2 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!

    Table of Contents, Meeting Management Resources Page Previous Section, Meeting Management Next Section, Meeting Management