Idea Evaluation

This is the third part of the four-part series on conflict. In the first part, we explored why we need conflict. In the second how to establish a space that will be conducive to exploration of ideas.  In this post, we will explore some techniques to objectively review ideas. 

There are four parts to this series, this is the third: 

1. Why we need Conflict 

2. Ground Rules for effective conflict facilitation  

3. Objective evaluation of Ideas  

4. How to Navigate Conflict 

Clear Success Criteria 

Having clear outcomes for the event is key. For the Scrum Events this should be self-evident, however I have found that it is always worthwhile to call them out as it will help remind everyone to focus. 

With other workshops having the desired outcome stated at the start, will emphasise the event’s focus.  

Once the outcome is stated or discovered, then the agenda can be outlined with approximate timings. This will act as an enabling constraint – it guides people to the content and flow of the event. This will reduce the uncertainty around what will happen and invite them to engage in the process. 

Idea check techniques 

The following are a few techniques to assess ideas, with the fastest least detailed first. 

Roman Vote 

This technique is named after the voting method in the coliseum, which is not true! Each person uses their thumb to declare whether they agree or not. 

The idea is clarified in one sentence. 

Everyone shows their hand at the same time (to prevent anchoring). Thumb up to agree, sideways to abstain or be neutral, thumb down to disagree. 

Simple majority to find the group answer 

Fist of Five 

A simple technique where everyone shows the number of fingers for how strongly they agree. No fingers for zero votes, up to 5 fingers for a maximum of 5 votes. Everyone must vote. 

Tally up the votes, or use this an opportunity to explore the range. 

Dot point vote 

This is a slightly longer technique that can be used to sort thoughts after idea generation. 

Cluster like ideas together, and give them a title 

Each participant is given a set number of dots (I like using odd numbers 3 or 5) 

Set a time box 

At the end of the timebox order the ideas by the votes 

Merit Score 

With complex ideas, there may be many aspects that need to be considered. Using an objective merit score can help clarify the strengths of proposals, and in my experience, help unlock a further blended solution. I learnt this technique from Roy Osherove’s Notes to a Software Team Leader 

Agree the criteria for evaluation. Try to keep it less than 10 to avoid people getting overwhelmed. 

Generate the scores for each criterion, solution by solution. You may want to use a fist of five to make this process faster. Be open to discussion – this is a tool for understanding as much as clarification. 

Add the total  

Call to Action 

When you are facilitating, the group expects you to have some techniques on hand to help them get through the agenda.  

What techniques do you prefer to use to guide a group through idea evaluation? 

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