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What is Fist to Five? ✊-✋ And how to use it for decisions in meetings

Learn what each finger position means when taking votes using the Fist to Five method

What is Fist to Five? ✊-✋ And how to use it for decisions in meetings

The term "fist to five" voting is a decision-making method for groups where each person expresses their opinion by holding up a hand with fingers numbering 0–5.

This is a technique you can bring to your meetings at work or in your community to help reach decisions faster, and empower more people in the group to be able to have input.

Unlike typical consensus where each person only has one vote, Yes or No, Fist to Five voting is a method to gauge the general level of agreement based on how many fingers each meeting participant holds up.

A fist indicates no agreement, "no way!" whereas holding up five fingers expresses total unity. "I love it!"

One to four fingers allow participants to show some support or opposition according to this standard.

What each finger position means in Fist to Five voting

  • Fist: No way.
  • 1 Finger: Hold on. We need to talk about this.
  • 2 Fingers: I have reservations, but could be convinced.
  • 3 Fingers: I guess I'm okay with it.
  • 4 Fingers: Sounds good.
  • 5 Fingers: I'm in total agreement.

The Fist to Five voting process is typically done after an initial discussion but is not necessarily used as a final vote. Instead, it's used to gauge the room and determine how close or far everyone is from consensus.

If most of the room is on the disagreement side—fists, ones, or twos—then the issue can usually be settled in favor of not moving forward. Likewise, if the room is threes, fours, and fives, the question is also settled in the affirmative.

However, if just one or a few individuals have concerns, it's easy to spot who they are, and have them raise those concerns with the group. Rather than debate hypotheticals or convince people who are already on board with an idea, Fist to Five puts out in the open whether or not there are objections so they can be dealt with swiftly.

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How is Fist to Five a different form of consensus?

Consensus is the process by which people come to agree on a decision. This process can take many forms, it can be private or public, it can be formal or informal, and it can also involve many different techniques.

In Fist to Five voting, each person only has a single vote, so the majority of the group must agree on any decision. Since the only reason for a group to be able to make a decision is because everyone is in agreement with it, every person in the group has an equal say in decisions made by the group.

Fist to Five is not about who makes the final decision. In fact, does not require a leader and it's about a single option (rather than between options) which simplifies the question being presented to the group.

Instead, Fist to Five voting is about making sure that everyone has their say and feels like they've contributed to the decision being made. It's about transparency and trust.

How is Fist to Five different from other decision-making methods?

There are many different methods used where people vote on issues as they come up. However, most of these methods never get beyond a simple vote, and so the reasoning behind that dissenting vote can may be ignored.

Do you have to have 100% consensus with Fist to Five voting?

How you implement a method like this in your meetings is up to you. Aiming for complete consensus on every decision can end up satisfying everyone and no one at the same time.

For example, in our meetings at work, we sometimes "disagree and commit" — which is a way of both disagreeing with the group and not blocking a decision from being made.

Say one meeting participant is a two on a particular issue, meaning they "have reservations". Perhaps they are not ultimately convinced but you want to move ahead anyhow. Being a two is much different than being a zero (a fist) on an issue in terms of the level of disagreement, so you might feel comfortable make the decision in that context.

Is it "Fist of Five" or "Fist to Five"?

Fist TO Five.

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