Rick Lent’s Decision-Making Meeting

Develop a decision that we all can support
Gabriel Guevara
Design Operations Manager

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What's in this template?

Rick Lent is the co-founder of Meeting for Results and the author of Leading Great Meetings: How to Structure Yours for Success.

A good decision-making meeting will get the group talking, sharing concerns, and create the momentum needed for the next steps.

Share an agenda with the proposed decisions (including supporting materials) at least 48 hours in advance to allow everyone to productively prepare. You don’t want the participants to be surprised because they may become defensive and won’t be able to participate effectively in the meeting. If a decision is particularly complex or important, consider talking with individual participants in advance to answer any questions they might have.

There are several approaches a team can use when making a decision, and when the approach is not clearly communicated to every participant, the confusion can lead to inappropriate expectations, difficult conversations, and poor results.

In this template, you’ll use a consensus approach to making a decision and the purpose sets the expectation that the group will develop a common conclusion which all will support. Make sure to document supporting points, action items, the final decision, and if necessary, determine how the decision may need to be communicated to others who didn’t participate in the meeting.

When using the consensus approach, it’s important to give all participants a chance to speak and be heard, especially if you’re holding a remote meeting. Allow each person to share their thoughts and comments when the group seems to be getting stuck on a particular discussion point. Ask for reflections on what participants now understand, or don’t, regarding the original purpose of the discussion. Set a specific expectation for how long each person should talk and explain that no one should speak twice before everyone has spoken.

For more tips on effectively leading meetings and making decisions, check out Rick’s book Leading Great Meetings: How to Structure Yours for Success.


Briefly explain what it means to make a decision by consensus

Once your group is ready to begin, start by making sure everyone has a shared understanding of what it means to achieve consensus. It is important to clarify your meaning upfront since consensus sometimes means only that no one voiced an objection. We want clear support for all aspects of the decision we can agree on.

Review proposed decision

Present the proposed decision and gather reactions from each person

Check for any clarifying questions as needed, but this is not the time for debate. Lead a discussion to hear each person’s reaction to the proposal. A brief (minute or less) comment from each person should be enough. This is not a time for additional proposals or amendments nor is it time to go back and forth between two or more of the group members. Record the comments from each person where everyone can see them.

Discussion: Clarify replies

Discuss points of agreement and non-agreement

The person making the original proposal can now revise it based on all comments received and present the revised proposal back to the group. Next, lead another discussion and ask for any remaining objections to the revised proposal. Note that any objection should reflect a specific personal concern or interest and be explained to the group. If there are no remaining objections go to the next agenda topic, otherwise, discuss how to improve the proposal, or remove parts of it, or include precautions or limits to the proposal. Complete any revisions.

Final check

Confirm agreements and differences (if any)

As necessary, record any remaining areas of disagreement and document these as “not yet agreed.” Set these areas aside and clarify the remaining body of the proposal on which you will seek consensus. Conduct a final discussion to check that there are no more objections. This is not a time for debate, but an opportunity to verify that there is (or is not) consensus given the revised proposal.

Next steps

Document decisions and next steps

Document your decisions where the whole team can easily see and access them. Explain the next steps to implement the decisions and set a specific plan to follow-up on any points not yet agreed to.

60 minutes or less
12 people or less
Ad hoc

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