As a trainer, you play a major role in helping your participants overcome significant challenges in their professional lives. There are situations where you may have to help your trainees make difficult decisions in their organization. Strong decision-making skills is an invaluable soft skill that can be beneficial in any role.

While sometimes you can get away with making decisions individually, in many cases, a decision requires the input of a group of people, this is what we are talking about in this blog post. It requires a bit of a different process, but you can get insight from everyone and come to an optimum consensus with preparation and organization.

When it comes to the actual decision point, it helps that a facilitator knows ways to guide a group towards optimal decision-making. This blog post will discuss ways to identify options, create a shortlist, and choose a solution. We will also discuss a way of deciding not often considered by many, called the multi-option technique.

Identifying the Options

The key to identifying options is to gather information. The following are some ways groups can identify options during decision-making:

  • Brainstorming is the process of coming up with as many ideas as you can in the shortest time possible. It makes use of the diversity of personalities in a group so that one can come up with the widest range of fresh ideas. The quantity of ideas is more important than the quality of ideas in the initial stage of brainstorming; you can filter out the bad ones later on with an in-depth review of their pros and cons.
  • Round Robin. Ask each member of the group to suggest one option for consideration. All members must contribute an idea.
  • Facilitated SWOT Analysis. Some teams create each option as a group, and they do so by conducting a facilitated analysis of the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as they relate to the problem.

The most important thing about these processes is that they are conducted in a consultative fashion. Everyone needs an opportunity to express their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

Creating a Shortlist

A shortlist is a condensed selection of options for making a decision. Your short-list will include the final decision, but there is still additional deliberation needed to reach the final one.

The first step to developing a shortlist is to establish its criteria. Ask the group to come up with the criteria to be used to evaluate each option.  Once criteria are set, the facilitator can guide the group into weighing each option according to the criteria.

There are many criteria a facilitator uses to help a group create a shortlist. The following are just some of these ways:

  • Costs and benefits. An ideal solution has the least costs and most benefits.
  • Disagreeing parties’ interests. An ideal solution has factored in the impact on all parties concerned and has made adjustments accordingly.
  • Foresight. An ideal solution doesn’t have just short-term gains but long-term ones as well.
  • An ideal solution has anticipated all possible obstacles in its implementation and has made plans accordingly.
  • An ideal solution is consistent with the mission-vision of the organization and or its members.

Your criteria will be selected on a case-by-case basis depending on the context of the decision being made. Once you have solidified your shortlist, it is time to find out the favorable option for the groups as a whole. If you need to narrow down your list a bit first, survey which options members don’t like. A facilitator can ask the group which options from the shortlist are no’s, and eliminate them from the list.

Once it is as narrowed down as much as possible, there may still be multiple options left. If that’s the case, survey the group members to find out which options are preferred. As the facilitator, you can also conduct a quick survey of each group member’s likes on the list. You can select the solution either by strict consensus or by majority vote.

Using the Multi-Option Technique

What if you are still stuck between multiple options? It is time to closely consider if the multi-option technique could suit finding a solution.

When coming up with solutions to an issue, you are not limited to choosing only one; you can pick several solutions to a problem, and follow through on these many solutions simultaneously. This process is called the multi-option technique.

For instance, in addressing a problem of lagging sales, approaches can be related to poor advertising, poor market selection, or a problem in the product itself. A group following the multi-option technique will assign a person or team to follow through on each option. One team can create a better advertising campaign; another team can look for a better market; while another team can improve the product. In succeeding meetings, each team will report their results as separate teams.

The solutions followed through in a multi-option technique are not necessarily complementary to one another, although groups have the option to follow through on only complimentary ideas. But if the group wants to see two opposing scenarios with different assumptions, they can do so.

How can a facilitator conduct the multi-option technique? The group can brainstorm several options, and the facilitator can help the group select which of the many options they want to pursue further.

This technique may seem overwhelming in theory, but proper and careful planning can help you when you’re still trying to figure out the root of the problem.


Active participation by all teammates and creating a safe space will allow for a difficult decision to be brought to the best possible consensus. Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. Involving everyone in the decision-making process productively will ensure each team member knows their value and increase motivation.

It may seem like a lot of work to go through the process of creating a shortlist and ensuring you involve everyone in the process. But when it comes to big decisions, the stakes can be high. And it is important to do your due diligence so you get it right the first time.

How do you handle facilitating group decisions? Let us know in the comments!

Posted by Katelyn Roy on

  • Tags: business skills, business skills training, business training, corporate training, courseware, decision making, Soft Skills Training, Team Building, Team work, TeamBuilding, Teamwork

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    • Simply Brilliant!!!!!

      mark hobson on

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