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Do you know any activities to facilitate group consensus decision making?


Three or four years ago whilst running Recruitment Assessment Centres I used some Workbooks to facilitate group consensus decision making activities. Based upon survival in the wilderness the group was given a number of questions with multiple choice answers - the purpose of the exercise being to observe individuals within the group and analyse how decisions were agreed upon.

I can't remember who the publisher was - is there anyone out there who has used such workbooks or who could recommend other materials they may have used?

Jerry Grafton

8 Responses

  1. re group consensus decision making
    Verax limited have a range of ‘wilderness survival’ type group consensus decison making exrecises, which I’ve used very successfully over the last six or seven years. Short video clips to lead in to the exercises are available in some cases, and these provide a real illusion of putting the group into the situation. The address is:
    Verax Limited, Administration & Research Centre, Taplins Court,
    Chursh Lane, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, RG27 8XU, England.
    TEL: 01252 812200.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Consensus decision-making
    We publish a similar exercise, the classic NASA Moon Survival Task. People place in order of importance to their survival, following a crash landing on the moon, 15 assorted items.

    Intended as a training exercise rather than a recruitment tool, the NASA exercise was developed by Teleometrics International in conjunction with the NASA people in Houston, who provided an ‘expert’ solution.

    Individuals work alone, hand copies of their solutions to the trainer, then join their group.

    During the group discussions, which we do not observe (some trainers do sit in but we think this inhibits the group), we mark the individual ratings, awarding error scores. So, like golf, the lower the total score the better.

    Typically, if we are working with, say, three groups of six, at the end of the exercise one group will have achieved a positive creativity score while the others might show a loss of quality, possibly even to below their ‘average resource’ value.

    To explore the way the groups approached their task, the extent to which members’ knowledge, ideas and opinions were shared and solicited, each completes a Team Effectiveness Survey, rating themselves and each other against 20 behaviours, producing Johari Window profiles.

    Finally everyone is encouraged to join with their group to discuss the findings. These sessions should be open-ended and the trainer is not present.

    Our experience is that this discussion can be a highlight of a team-building programme as individuals take the opportunity to consider the impact of their behaviours on others.

    The documentation for the exercise (NASA and Team Effectiveness Survey) costs £11.50 per person.

    If you would like a free copy of the trainer’s detailed notes,

  3. Group Explorer using cognitive mapping
    We use a process mode of getting the group to share their mental models by building a cognitive map around the problem situation. These cognitive maps provide the knowledge base around the decision and have the advantage of being a group output. Through a preference mechanism Group Explorer enables the selection of the preferred option. You are also able to take this option into a planning mode for implementation.

    The entire process is driven by a facilitator (or even two)experienced in cognitive mapping and the use of group decision support software – Group Explorer. It is all written up in a book by Colin Eden and Fran Ackermann entitled Making Strategy published by Sage. THere are some case studies on our web at http://phrontis.comand the book is available at or any good book store.

  4. “Consensus” processes
    A process that I use often is called Nominal Group Technique (NGT). This comes from the world of Continuous Improvement. It is a way of getting both consensus and, equally importantly, strongly-held minority views about alternatives, which may be presented in a list as in Lost on Moon etc or generated by the group (eg through brainstorming). In fact I am a bit wary of “consensus” – I feel it is often forced and anyway by overlooking minorities we lose a lot of learning and also create social problems. NGT is described in many TQM books, also in my own “Identifying Training Needs” (Boydell and Leary; IPD, 1996).

    My colleagues and I have also devised some software – The Prioritiser – for members of groups to use to show similarities and differences in priorities. The aim again is not to reach consensus as such but to show agreements and differences and then dialogue about these.

  5. Decision analysis focused group work
    Seeking consensus is a very different activity from pursuing good decision making. The assumption that consensus leads to effective and accurate decision making is not confirmed by research.

    At its best, consensus seeking is a mode 5 operation on Hammond’s cognitive continuum. Moving to mode 4 and using decision analysis frameworks can provide a structure which enables explicit and well focused contributions in groups. The pioneering work undertaken under Dr Stephen Pauker from the Clinical Decision Making Unit at Boston’s New England Medical Centre, is a model which transfers in our experience into any professional setting. My company Inter-ed Ltd ( would be happy to provide further guidance to anyone interested.

  6. Process for gaining consensus and commitment
    Have a look at
    You will find a process designed to enable consensus, commitment and ownership of decisions. It really works. It gets away from endless discussion, woolly decisions, flip charts (driven by one person!) and opens up a manageable whole brain process – colour, shape, activity, clarity, participation. Call me when/if you like.

  7. Decision Line
    Here’s a write-up of one of my favourite consensus exercise. It gets progressively harder as the groups increase in size – to as big as you want!!

    A ‘deciding line’ down the centre of the room created two areas.
    One side of the line was the area for decision-making – which is where everyone started off in self-chosen pairs. Within each pair one person read the ‘barrier’ described on their postcard to their partner, and then turned over the card to look at the picture. (This is a version of the ‘random picture’ method for
    creative thinking.) The pair’s task was to try to use the picture to help them think creatively about a way of overcoming the
    barrier on the other side of the card. If the picture was not found to be helpful it was to be ignored.

    As soon as one pair had decided on a solution that they both liked, they crossed the line to show that they had made their decision. When the second pair crossed, they formed a team of
    four, crossed back over the line, chose an ‘unused’ card from within their team and repeated the process – which this time
    require agreement amongst all four. After about 10 minutes of building up into bigger teams, the exercise was stopped.


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