Stepladder technique

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Identification
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Level of process: 
Method
Intent or purpose: 
Facilitation and structuring of decision making in groups in order to improve their effectiveness and the quality of the decision.
Types of Participants: 
The method can be used in any educational, business or general institutional context.
Recommended size of group: 
1-10
11-25
Remarks about group size: 
Four participants (if the group is bigger, it can be divided up into teams of four who are concerned with sub-decisions of the problem at hand)
Optimal amount of time needed: 
1 hour
Howto
Usual or Expected Outcomes: 
A decision to the problem at hand which is supported by the whole group.
Level of participation: 
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Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: 
Level of Difficulty to Facilitate: 
Facilitation skills required
Facilitator Personality Fit: 
Intermediate level facilitation skills are needed: Instructions regarding the process and purpose of the exercise must be given clearly and the process should be led by the facilitator
Setting and Materials: 
Papers and pens for making notes and putting down decision options, important facts as well as the final decision; Setting is a classroom or conference room.
Resources Needed: 
Writing material and sufficient space
Pre-Work Required: 
The facilitator should be familiar with the method and the problem that the group needs to solve. Advance knowledge about the group can also be helpful.
Procedures: 

The group should have an ideal size of four people. If it exceeds this number, it can be divided up into several teams of four who are concerned with different parts of the problem.
The procedure consists of three steps: Step 1 is dividing the team of four into a core team of two people who start discussing the problem at hand. After 10-15 minutes (depending on the complexity of the problem) the group continues with Step 2 as the third team member joins the core team by presenting his/her ideas regarding the problem. The core team listens and after the presentation, the three participants discuss the problem among themselves. The same procedure is carried out in Step 3 when the fourth team member joins. He/she joins in, presents her perspective of the problem and the group discusses. Now when all members have joined in, the whole team discusses the problem in order to reach a solution together.
The benefits of this technique are that each member is given enough time to think about the problem and the opportunity to speak his/her mind. By hearing everyone’s point and giving it attention in the following discussion, the group arrives at a joint conclusion which every group member supports.

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Background
Developer: 
Rogelberg & O’Connor
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References: 
Rogelberg, S. G. & O'Connor, M. S. (1998), “The stepladder technique : An alternative group structure facilitating effective group decision making, Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice”.
License Model: 
Suppliers
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