Fist to Five

All of us are used to the simplicity of answering “yes” or “no” in decision making. (Or a slight variation: thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways.)

The “Fist to Five” approach introduces an element of gradation – away from the simple binary to a more informative measure of confidence and sense of a group decision making and achieving consensus.

To use this technique, a proposal is brought before a group, (kick it off, commit to that user story in a sprint, ship it, etc.). It is then well discussed and refined as needed, and then a vote for passage or level of support is taken.

Fist to Five “voting” is accomplished by a raising of hands. Participants first put their closed fist in the air without revealing their vote, indicating that they’re ready. When all of the fists are in the air, all reveal their votes together on the count of three.

Votes are indicated by the number of fingers extended – reflecting each individual’s level of agreement/confidence/support:

  • 0 fingers (a fist) means, “I object/block this idea, we need to talk more and changes are required in order to for me to agree to move ahead.”
  • 1 finger means, “I have major concerns – I think there is a lot more work to do before we move ahead.”
  • 2 fingers means “I don’t much like this and I’d like to discuss some minor issues.”
  • 3 fingers means, “I’m in the middle somewhere. Like some of it, but not all. And I’m comfortable enough to let things move ahead without further discussion.”
  • 4 fingers means, “This is fine. I think it’s a good idea.”
  • 5 fingers means, “I like this a lot, I think it’s the best possible decision.”

If any team member holds up fewer than three fingers, they must sMoreBeertate their objections, offer possible solutions if they have ’em and the rest of the team should then respond. Those with 3 fingers can optionally share their concerns if they wish.

Though discussion, refinement of the proposal takes place. And then a re-vote happens.

Rinse and repeat until everyone holds up three or more fingers, or your arms get tired… in that case take a break…and resort to the monkey fist technique…

Our decision making will be better when we draw upon our collective knowledge combined with unvarnished opinions. Candor is a key.

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