How to make group decisions by email

When you are trying to get a group to make a decision via email it helps to propose something concrete for people to respond to, rather than just starting an open ended discussion.

Here is someone trying to set up a get together for a group of mothers with young children via emails sent to a list of 8 people:

Joan: "Hi. I am hoping to get some people together on Sunday. I was wondering if anyone was up for a get together around 10. I am thinking a park or the zoo?"

Joan: "I should have asked before does 10 AM or 3 PM work better? I just assumed before nap is easier."

Mary: "10am for me. Did we pick a place yet?"

Polly: "Morning is also better for us. Do we have a confirmed time and place (and directions) yet?"

Joan: "As for places, I say either Jones Park or Smith Park (we have never been there before) or Greenberg Park. What works for you all?"

Betty: "We will be there at 10 am , what park are you thinking of?"

Kathy: "Im up for trying out a new park (Smith Park) but am fine with what ever the group decides. "

Joan: "
I think a park is easiest. What is central to all of us?"

Betty: "Smith Park sounds good, 10am."

Joan proposes not only multiple options for times but also multiple possible venues. Notice that as time goes by she does nothing to converge the group down to a single place and time. The only reason closure was ever reached was that Betty took charge and picked a park and time for the group.

The lesson? When tying to set something up with a group of people by email you should not present the group with a number of decisions that need to be made. Give the group a complete proposal, "I am going to Smith Park Sunday, 10 am, and I hope some of you can join me" that people can either choose to accept, reject, or make a counterproposal. Sending an email to a group asking the group to make a number of decisions is a recipe for endless dithering.

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