The first thing that you, the meeting facilitator, should do when leading a problem-solving meeting is define what the problem is. I find too often people jump into problem-solving without really understanding and having alignment on what the actual problem is that they are trying to solve. Once the group has identified and agreed to the core issue, you’re ready to start collaborative problem-solving.
There are many different methodologies for problem-solving. We prefer to keeping it simple and straight forward. Our 4-step approach would include;
Step 1: Define what the future could look like if the problem was resolved. What’s changed as a result of solving that problem?
Step 2: What are the gaps between where we are now versus where we want to be? Doing a gap analysis includes figuring out what the most important gaps are that must be resolved. This will require prioritizing out the most critical gaps. To effectively prioritize you’ll need some type of criteria (e.g., supports our strategic mandate, or will lead to greater cost cutting, etc.) to help the group collaboratively sort out ‘must haves’ from ‘nice to haves’.
Step 3: Once high-priority gaps are identified we can now start brainstorming solutions. When we come up with multiple solutions, we have to also figure out what the best solutions are and, again we need to fall back on our prioritization criteria that we used in Step 2 to identify key gaps. We then discuss each solution in light of that criteria, and collectively determine our #1 solution, or top three solutions, or a ranked list of priorities starting with the most ideal to the least ideal solution.
Step 4: Once we come up with the solutions, we then plan an action plan. Our action plan should include: the action, who is accountable for the action, when the action begins and ends, what resources may be required to facilitate the action, and what the desired or expected outcome will be once the action is implemented.
Having a simple, systematic approach to problem-solving will enable you and your group to develop solutions and actions collaboratively, that most likely will be owned by the group and followed through!
By Michael Goldman
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