"One of the most common meetings is a meeting called to solve a problem. There are three ways these meetings fail to get off track -
- People start playing the blame game,
- You avoid the elephant in the room them, or
- There's all talk and no action.
These meetings are a waste of time, and they create a lot of dissension. Your ability to facilitate an effective problem solving discussion should be a top priority because it's a skill you're going to use now and for the rest of your career. You start by inviting the right people,
- People who are experiencing the symptoms of the problem,
- People that can explain the problem, and
- People that can fix the problem.
Now, don't confuse symptoms with problems. Problems hide beneath the surface and often hide behind that big elephant in the room. If you're running the meeting, you want to set three meeting objectives right up front.
- You want to understand the problem,
- Fix the problem, and
- Learn from the problem
Have the people experiencing the symptoms go first. Have them described their challenge in great detail. This gives the meeting a place to kick off.
The best way to understand the problem is to ask questions, and there's one question to focus on, and that question is 'why'. Keep asking 'why'. When you get an answer, ask another 'why' and encourage the entire group to weigh in. It sounds like how you play the blame game, but it's not. The answer to your first 'why' often begins to point blame, but the answer to your next set of 'whys' tend to get closer to the root of the issue, the heart of the issue.
This is why you need the right people in the room, and people that can describe the symptoms are often times different than people that can explain the problem. You need both in the room. If you take this approach, it's hard to avoid the elephant in the room, and you generate more solutions. It's hard to ignore the elephant in the room because you keep looking for it. You keep asking 'why', you keep drilling down.
Now, some solutions are bandaids, and that's okay because other solutions are going to take more time. If you take this approach, it's easier to take action because there's a lot of ways to solve a problem and everyone can own their part of the solution. And if you take this approach, the problem becomes a learning opportunity. People understand the problem better, and they understand their role in fixing the problem.
Remember, you don't want to fix symptoms. You want to fix problems.
- So get the right people in the room,
- Set the right tone, and
- Keep asking 'why'.
Your team is going to understand the problem better. They'll fix the problem, and then they'll learn from the problem, too."
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