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How to get a group to cut down a list

Craig explains that groups love to make lists longer but hate to make them shorter. Brainstorming “add-ons” is always fun. Cutting programs or activities is always hard. Learn how in this short video.

Here’s what Craig says in the video:

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. I want to talk a little bit about how to cut a list.

This is one of the hardest things that groups ever have to do. Groups love building lists. Whenever a group makes a strategic plan or even a short term plan, basically that’s a list. When a group sets goals for the next quarter, it’s a list. When the group is planning the annual summer picnic, it’s kind of a list. “Oh, lets have this kind of food and oh, lets have that kind of food, and let’s play baseball, and hey we could also rent a jumping house, and let’s play ultimate Frisbee!”

It’s really fun in a group to add to a list and make things bigger and better. But it’s really hard when you ask a group to cut a list. “Well, you know, here’s the list of stuff that we want to do at the annual summer picnic. But we don’t have enough people or money to do all these things. What shall we take out?”

And then there’s silence. Because no one wants to be the one who says, let’s cut baseball, let’s cut hot dogs.

The trick is, if you want a group to cut a list, ask them privately.

Building lists works really well publicly, but the most effective way to cut a list is to collect the data privately. You can do this by providing a menu of options and saying, “Okay everybody, pick your top 3, or your top 5, on a piece of paper with checkmarks and then hand that piece of paper in anonymously.” It can be done by email or electronically in advance. It can be done in a number of different ways. As long as individuals don’t have to publicly report what they think should be cut.

Then somebody — maybe it’s a neutral facilitator — can report the data in the aggregate and say, “Look, I asked you all what we needed to cut out of the annual summer picnic and here’s what you said.” And when you present it that way, everybody will agree — maybe! — and you can cut your list.

So, the watch word for today is: build lists publicly, cut them privately.

I hope this helps you help your group make good decisions. Thanks for listening everybody.

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