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Making Decisions: Stoplight Cards and Thumbs Up

Stoplight cards and thumbs up are variations on the levels of consensus technique. [See last week's entry, Making Decisions: Levels of Consensus.] Instead of giving participants six levels to choose from, each of these tools gives just three choices.

Stoplight Cards
Imagine you are facilitating a staff meeting that will require several decisions. Before the meeting, prepare green, yellow, and red index cards (or put a dot of red, yellow, or green on blank cards). Make a set of three index cards, one of each color, for each group member. When a decision is being proposed, explain the use of the stoplight cards.

Group members will use the cards to indicate where they stand on the decision to be made:
Green card -- indicates agreement with the decision
Yellow card -- indicates some hesitation or caution about the decision
Red card -- indicates disagreement with the decision

State clearly the decision to be made. Then ask group members to hold up the card that indicates where they stand on the decision.

As with the levels of consensus technique, ask those who are holding yellow or red cards to explain their hesitation or disagreement.

Thumbs Up
Thumbs Up is essentially the same tool as stoplight cards. The difference is that participants indicate with their thumbs, rather than cards, where they stand with a decision:

Key Points To Take Away

--- Use stoplight cards and thumbs up when you want a general understanding of people's viewpoints.
--- These methods are good when you need to move quickly through a decision-making process.
--- "Thumbs up" is good method to use on the spot, because it doesn't require preparation.


Thumb up --- indicates agreement with the decision
Thumb sideways --- indicates some hesitation or caution about the decision
Thumb down --- indicates disagreement with the decision

The clear advantage of the thumbs-up activity is that you can use it in the moment with no preparation.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: The "Sense of the Group" technique for making decisions.


About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

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