Prioritizing as a Group

In Robert's Rules of Orders, the chief decision-making tool is a vote by the committee or group members. For some committees, the majority rule approach is adequate. Other groups may wish to use a prioritizing process either prior to voting or in place of voting.

The prioritizing tools in this site share a common focus on the feasibility of the ideas or options, regardless of who first presented them. Also these prioritizing tools help keep the purpose of the decision in the forefront. All three techniques assume that the choices from which the committee must select are written out for all to see-on a board or chart.

This visual record of choices is essential for decision-making because most people's brains can only hold 5 items in short-term memory (plus or minus 2). That means that if you have more than 3 alternatives, there are probably people in the room who can't remember them all without a visual listing. Thus a visual list is essential if all the choices are to be equally considered.

Prioritizing Tools

  • The Criteria Matrix is helpful for choosing among alternatives. It forces a committee or group to identify characteristics of a "winning" choice. (E.g. costs less than what we are doing now, creates an interdisciplinary link, increases opportunities for extramural funding, eliminates paperwork, etc.) Each alternative is discussed against the success criteria and a numerical score is created for each alternative.
  • Multi-voting helps a committee or group narrow down a large number of items into just a few items on which to focus.
  • Similar to Multi-voting, the Zero to Ten Rating approach forces each member to evaluate every item which allows the group to focus only on those items identified as priorities.

 


 

Criteria Matrix

The Criteria Matrix is helpful for choosing among alternatives. It forces a committee or group to identify characteristics of a "winning" or successful choice (E.g. costs less than what we are doing now, creates an interdisciplinary link, increases opportunities for extramural funding, eliminates paperwork, eliminates duplication, etc.). These criteria may be weighted if some are more important than others. All options are then discussed against the success criteria and a numerical score is created for each.

The group making the decision should be clear at the start whether they will make the final decision based on the numerical choice or use the numerical ranking to in inform the final decision.

Step 1: Define the question that is to be answered. An example might be,"Where should on-going responsibility for assessment of student learning lie in our department?

Step 2: Brainstorm with others involved a list of criteria for a successful decision. To identify the success criteria, begin with a question such as, "What are the characteristics of a good solution regarding responsibility for assessment of student learning?"

Success Criteria:

  1. Solution is self-sustaining
  2. Ensures that assessment data are actually used for decisions about the curriculum
  3. Does not duplicate work done in existing committees or by individuals
  4. Enables data on student learning to be widely shared and discussed in the department

Step 3: You may need to provide a clear definition for each success criteria.

Criterion: Self-sustaining -> Definition: Doesn't have to be rethought every year. It's business as usual.

Step 4: Create a matrix with criteria across the top and options down the side.

 

Options

Criteria for Success

A. Self-Sustaining

B. Ensures Action

C. Non-duplicative

D. Enables information sharing

1. Chair appoints someone each year

2. Create a standing assessment committee

3. Make Undergrad Curriculum Committee responsible

 

Step 5: Assign a weight to each criterion from 1-5, with 5 being high. (This is not a ranking. Each criterion receives its own weight independent of the others)

 

Criterion

Weight

A. Solution is self-sustaining

4

B. Ensures that assessment data are actually used for decisions about the curriculum

5

C. Does not duplicate work done in existing committees or by individuals

4

D. Enables data on student learning to be widely shared and discussed in the department

3

 

Step 6: Discuss the extent to which each potential option meets the success criteria. If a choice meets the criteria, it receives a check mark or "X". Note that these same criteria may be used later in evaluating how well the implementation worked.

 

Options

Criteria for Success

Total Points

A. Self-Sustaining

B. Ensures Action

C. Non-duplicative

D. Enables information sharing

1. Chair appoints someone each year

X

4

2. Create a standing assessment committee

X

X

X

12

3. Make Undergrad Curriculum Committee responsible

X

X

X

X

16

 

Step 7: Each check mark or "X" is worth the weight of the criterion to which it applies. Add up the value of the check marks times their respective weights for each option to obtain numerical scores. Presumably the best choice, based on the success criteria identified earlier, is the option with the highest score.

In this example, the third option, "Make Undergraduate Curriculum Committee responsible," best meets the criteria for success identified by that department.

Variations

A group making a decision can use one of the most important elements of the Criteria Matrix which is identifying what a successful solution should look like. Agree at the start (Steps 1-3) on elements of success. List them. Then all ideas can be discussed in relation to those success criteria. Comparing options to the success criteria can lesson effects of negative interpersonal dynamics that can obstruct decision-making.

In the example above, options were judged either to meet the criteria or not meet the criteria. It is also possible to decide whether each option meets each criterion To a great extent, To some extent, To little or no extent.

 


 

Multi-voting

This is a very simple and quick method for committees or groups to use in setting priorities when there are many options-Which are most important? What do we need to do this year? Which project should be started first? What core values are most important?

Steps:

  1. Brainstorm possibilities. Suppose you have a group which has generated a list of all the things they believe they should address this school year. They know they can't do it all. This method would help give a sense of which items are most important and should be addressed first. Therefore, begin by brainstorming all the options. List these on a flip chart in any order. Leave enough space between the items for the self-stick dots.
  2. Give each person in the group 10 self-stick dots. (For this exercise, color is irrelevant.) Instruct them that to choose their priorities, they are to use "all 10 dots but no more than 4 on any ONE item." Therefore, 4 dots would indicate their top priority. Some items will have no dots. Participants actually walk up to the flip charts and place their dots next to their items of choice. (If you have a larger group, split the items on 2 flip charts on opposite sides of the room so as not to take too much time or cause congestion. Start half the group on each side.)
  3. When everyone has placed his/her dots, count them for each item and make a priority listing on a new flip chart page. There usually are a few clear winners. You may then discuss with the group if they agree those should be top priorities on which to start working. It does not necessarily mean that the others are eliminated.
  4. If the list is still too long, give each person in the group 2 or 3 self-stick dots and ask them to vote for their top priorities from the existing priority list (one vote per item).

Summary: This exercise is an enjoyable and participative activity, which yields clearly visible priorities and limits discussion if it has gone on too long. Typically, for a group of 10 this would take 20-30 minutes to complete.

Adapted from Facilitator Tool Kit. (2001). Office of Quality Improvement, UW-Madison.

 


 

Zero to Ten Rating

Zero to Ten rating is a technique to use when a committee or department or unit must decide something about its own operations. For example, a department is planning for the next year and a number of possible options have been suggested. Perhaps even the Multi-voting method has been used to narrow down the possibilities.
There are still more ideas for next year than are feasible to complete. Next to each item, draw a continuum with numbers from 0-10. At the left end, label zero "Can Wait." At the right end, label 10 as "Essential to Do Now."
(You will have as many continua as you have items from which to chose.)

Each person goes up to the chart or board where the items and continua are listed and places a self-stick dot or sticker on each continuum according to his or her opinion of the importance of the item for the coming year. (Note, if there are extreme trust or confidentiality issues within the group, turn the chart around and have each person go up to the chart individually. The facilitator or leader may even place the first dots.)

After all self-stick dots have been placed, the group will have a clear visual representation of clusters of agreement. The facilitator may say, "Let's not spend time on items that are ranked between 1-5, but let's focus on the items where most votes are six or above."

This exercise may show the group that they are "all over the board" in terms of what they believe is most important. Data will probably needed at this point to help clarify priorities.

The other great value of the zero to ten rating is that it mitigates those who attempt to force their views onto the group. It can be a reality check for those who say, "The whole department thinks this," or "I am sure we all agree…"


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