What’s your starting point?

17 Aug

Often we are thrown together because we have some kind of problem that needs addressing.

The usual problem solving process looks like this:

Convene -> Define Problem -> List Solutions -> Evaluate Solutions -> Create Action Plan -> Implement

  • We are convened late (i.e. the problem has become expensive, time consuming etc.).
  • We are convened by an authority figure (i.e. because the problem has become expensive, time consuming etc.).
  • After a brief period defining the problem (or not), we start listing solutions.
  • We discuss our various positions about the solutions (i.e. for/against and justification for that position).
  • We aren’t sure if everyone is at that table – reaching out would slow us down.
  • We narrow down the options and search for a midpoint.
  • Our philosophy is that majority rules.

What if instead, our process looked something like this?

  • We are convened early (we’ve known that the problem was coming for some time).
  • We make sure that stakeholders who care about the problem are at the table.
  • We choose a process manager and agree on our process moving forward.
  • We survey for interests (underlying motivations) rather than positions (preferred solutions).
  • We have a dialogue about options based on our identified interests (see step above).
  • We search for joint gain through improvement not criticism.
  • Our goal is consensus.

What struck me about listing the steps in this way is that in the first model, we get to solutions pretty quickly.

In the second model, we don’t think about solutions until way down the line. We spend a lot more time understanding the problem (and each stakeholder’s perspective about it) first.starting point

So, which model do you think results in better, long term solutions with greater buy-in?

I propose that next time you are in a group problem solving situation, put proposed solutions on ice for a while and focus the problem as your starting point.


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