The tool ‘silent prioritization’ makes it clear how much can be said without talking. It is about prioritizing topics or activities – without long “tactical” discussions.

In this year’s flow summer workshop, we tried out selected change instruments that had already been used successfully in our team of flow consultants. I was particularly impressed by the tool ‘silent prioritization’ (*) and therefore I would like to recommend it to you at this point. Try it in one of your next meetings.

The Quick Start Guide

All you need is about 10-20 minutes time, an important topic and a group interested in prioritizing the content or actions on that topic. The group should consist of a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 20 members.

Preparation and rules of the game

Write the most important aspects of the topic on facilitation cards (or notes or large post-its) – e.g. all measures necessary for the successful implementation of a change project. Each card contains a keyword or a short sentence.

Announce the rules of ‘silent prioritization’:

  • All cards are put on a table in a colourful mix.
  • The group members position themselves around the table.
  • In the following rounds the cards are prioritized.
  • Each group member is only allowed to move one card per round to the position he or she deems appropriate.
  • No one is allowed to speak. It must be kept silent.
  • The group determines the order in which the participants would like to proceed in the following rounds.
  • This order is binding – I recommend clockwise.

Step 1

Now ask the prioritization question, e.g. “Which topic is more important from your point of view? Place a card with the word “more important” at one end of the table and a card with the word “less important” at the other end. Be careful to formulate this prioritization question vaguely, i.e. ‘more / less important’ or ‘higher / lower’ or ‘more / less’ or ‘better / worse’.

Steps 2 to x

In the specified order, each group member now has exactly one ‘move’ per turn to place one of the cards at a position on the scale that is correct from an individual point of view. If someone does not want to change the order, the ‘ball’ is simply passed on.

Silent prioritization is complete when no group member makes any more changes. Or, if you notice that the group gets lost in ‘games’

My conclusion

It was fascinating to see how loud silence can become. We laughed a lot during the exercise, simply because the silence was a real challenge for so many people or because they were in a hurry to make their ‘opinion known’ and in eagerness simply skipped the colleague who would have been in front of them according to the rules of the game. Strict facilitation is then required. Especially when it’s not ‘just’ an exercise, as it is with us, but when it comes to really important topics for those involved.

For the more introverted, ‘silent prioritization’ is a blessing – ‘discussing’ without long discourses and argumentation loops.

And by the way: This tool also works for holiday planning in the family. Have fun with it!

If you are interested in further Change Tools, have a look at the books Change Tools or Change Tools 2. There we have published further tools from our work by the flow team, such as ‘Pinocchio’ or ‘Hurra, ein Befehl’ – download possibility included.

Best Regards

Anneli Gabriel

(*) Quelle: Häusling, A., Römer, E., Zeppenfeld, N. (2018): Praxisbuch Agilität. Tools für Personal- und Organisationsentwicklung. Freiburg, S. 113-114.

Foto: pixabay