Connect the Dots to Make Connections with the Team

Posted by Kristin Arnold on October 23, 2008

Has your team discovered dots?  Colored 1-inch-wide removable dots can be used in several ways to encourage team discussion.  Try using dots to:

Prioritize a List.  Give each team member the same number of dots (usually a third of the number of items on the list.  For example, if there are 30 items on the list, give each team member 10 dots).  Allow each team member to place the dots on the items that they think are most important.  Set some guidelines for the maximum number of votes allowed per item to keep one person from placing all their votes on one item and “skewing” the results.  Typically, this process will yield clear “break points” that show the obvious high-priority items, moderate priority — and no interest at all!

Select an Item.  Once you’ve prioritized a list, take the obvious high-priority items and take another vote.  You never, ever want to take the item that got the most votes during the first round.  Chances are that only a few people voted for that item.  By using a second (or even third) round, you narrow down the options and select an item that the majority supports.

Categorize a List.  Use different colored dots to separate the items into categories.  For example, place a yellow dot next to all items related to operations, a blue dot next to all items related to finance and a red dot next to marketing items.

Compare Criteria.  Use two colors to show different criteria to make a team decisions.  For example, in action planning, the team might want to know how important the item is, as well as the team members’ commitment to making sure that the action is completed.  Give each team member two colors (e.g., blue for importance and green for commitment).  This process usually creates interesting discussion when comparing what’s important with that they’re willing to do.

Express Views.  Give team members colored dots to express their views.  For example, give green “go” dots for those items that the team should do and red “stop” dots for those items that it shouldn’t.  Put the green dots on the left side of the list and the red dots on the right side.

Stand back, and you’ll have a great visual of what the team should and shouldn’t do.

Express a Position.  The team might be discussing a time line, theoretical model or other visual representation of an idea.  The team places a dot to signify where they are now, where they should be in the future, etc.  For example, team members share their personal style preferences by placing a dot in the quadrant that fits their style.

Stand back to see the general picture of the teams’ style preferences.

Two things to remember when using dots:

  1. Some team members might be colorblind, so watch out for red/green and blue/yellow combinations.
  2. The process is more important than the actual number of dots.  Look at where the team placed the dots.

What are the areas of agreement?  What are the areas of disagreement?

Given the “dotted” information (which is really just a “gut feeling” and not substantiated with data), what does this information tell you?

What does the team need to reach a consensus (where everyone can live with, and support, the decision)?

Question:  Any other ideas for connecting the dots?

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