Agile software development has many things to teach us, and one of my favorites is Fist of Five. This voting method, often proposed for scrum teams, is a fast way to get feedback from your team.

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In short, when you need to come to an agreement, take the temperature or vote on something, you can call for a Fist of Five.

Fist of Five Kickoff

To get started, whoever calls the vote counts down from 3 to let people assess their own opinions, then everyone votes at the same time by holding up a combination of fingers. Here are the options:

  • One finger means strongly disagree/think the topic is terrible/have strong reservations (choose which single finger you hold up wisely…).
  • Two fingers means disagree/have reservations.
  • Three fingers means you feel neutral.
  • Four fingers means agree/support it.
  • Five fingers means strongly agree/love it/would champion it.

Generally, anyone who votes with two fingers or one finger can be asked to speak up about their reservations and communicate what it would take for them to agree or like it. While you don’t need everyone at three fingers for every decision, it’s great for the group to be aware of the reservations of some of the team members as there may be considerations that haven’t occurred to others.

Benefits of Fist of Five

Once you start using this method of taking the pulse of your team, you will start to see the value this approach, including:

  • It’s easy to learn ― you can explain this method to a new meeting group in a minute or two.
  • It increases engagement ― when people know votes will be called, they’re encouraged to be on camera to vote.
  • It increases buy-in ― when people just don’t speak up to agree or disagree, they aren’t as invested as if their vote is heard. Everybody’s opinion is counted for each.
  • You find hidden pitfalls ― by allowing participants to discuss their reasons for disagreement more openly, you discover things others in the group haven’t thought of.
  • It’s faster and less awkward than the presenter saying, “Agree? Disagree?” and waiting endlessly for people to chime in (you know you’ve been there).
  • It’s democratic ― by counting down to vote, you’re encouraging people to show what they really vote, rather than voting with the crowd.

I encourage you to try it at your next meeting. Explain the method and then take your first vote. To get started, all you need to say is, “Fist of five: I understand how I’m supposed to vote. 3 … 2 … 1.” You’re on your way to a more efficient way of team voting and consensus building.

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