Agreement on the problem

I’m new to this and still in training, but am wondering what happens when after the early stage of the first session there is no real agreement on the problem. My initial response would be to ask the group if they wish to gain agreement before continuing. If it’s the first in a series of planned encounters, I would probably suggest to the stakeholders that if the problem is complex and not well understood, that a whole session be dedicated to defining the problem. This would mean that the issue presented is lack of clarity and agreement on the problem itself…but then I’m a researcher and have been trained to think that there needs to be clarity on the problem before you can go out and solve it, ie. you need to know what you’re solving. I would be interested in other views.

Tags: Action Learning Coach

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Comments (8)

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    Phil Cohen

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    With many problems you can arrive at a solution that may not be an optimum one, but still may be satisfactory. There may be several facets to the problem and perhaps we have identified the major 2 of 3 issues with the third issue having less of an impact on the outcome. The important point for me, is that I understand (as clearly as possible) the problem itself and the implications (pros and cons) of implementing one solution over another. In action learning, the group (with the help of the AL coach) should work to understand the problem and reach consensus in that regard. If consensus is not reached and it is the collective wish of the group to go to the solution phase it is their prerogative to do so.
    Naturally as an AL coach I would try to steer the group in the direction of reaching consensus by asking a number of questions which may include:
    -what are we doing well?
    -what could we do better?
    -how important is it for us to reach a consensus on our problem?
    -are we safe to move forward before we have reached a consensus on the root of the problem?
    In response to the possibility that the problem statement itself lacked clarity; it is up to the AL coach to have reviewed the problem statement with the problem presenter prior to it being brought before the group.

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      vacirca

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      Many thanks, this has helped clarify.

      Reply

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    Cleo Wolff

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    I think Phil has put two great questions to ask: how important is it for us to reach a consensus on our problem? Are we safe to move forward before we have reached a consensus on the root of the problem? With those questions I think we respect the participants and give the responsability to decide to them instead of we, as coach, decide for them.

    I have learned that most important than get a solution in AL sessions, at the right beginning, it is to move into actions, which can be include steps to understand better the problem before jump to solutions. If you have more sessions planned, I certainly would go on on defining the problem but we need to finish the session asking the problem presenter what are the action he/she will take till next session.

    I realize that having the problem well defined we get the solution quickly. We also need to be conscious that working with complex problems, each time we solve part of it, we have another problem coming up. So, sometimes we do keep several sessions to cover all complexity problems might have. Thanks for your contribution taking me to a deep reflection.
    Cleo

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      vacirca

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      Yes, I’m also noticing how the problem shifts between sessions and over time and that’s it’s important to hold the process for where the group is at. Thank you for your assistance.

      Reply

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    CRidge

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    I am new to action learning too. On reflecting on the two reponses to Agreeemnt to the Problem. The questions below sit well with me intuitively
    “how important is it for us to reach a consensus on our problem?
    -are we safe to move forward before we have reached a consensus on the root of the problem?”
    I have learnt over the past few weeks that indeed whilst as an AL coach it is important to support the group to get maximum benefit from the process: the coach does not own the problem and I am beginning to appreciate Phil’s comment. “If consensus is not reached and it is the collective wish of the group to go to the solution phase it is their prerogative to do so”. There is potentally significant learning for the group. I am also beginning to appreciate the reality that indeeed with complex questions as one element is resolved another does emerge. What a wonderful learning opportunity for all involved. In summary in my infancy as an AL coach I think I would allow the group to make the call about how they wish to proceed, having tried to steer the group into the right direction to reach consensus.

    Chris

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    DrBea

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    As all have indicated, Phil’s answer is great. It is up to the team to decide when they are ready to move to solution.

    If the team is having trouble reaching consensus, I would ask “What can we do to help us get to consensus?”

    Given the time constraints, I would also ask “What do we want to accomplish by the end of this session?”

    If it’s a complex problem with many parts, I would ask “How do we want to decide what aspect of the problem to work today?”

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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    vacirca

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    I like these questions as ways to check in with people who own the problem. They also help the group think about a complex problem in terms of priority and urgency, putting the decisionmaking in their hands.

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    CorinaKheo

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    I agree with Phil too. AL coach does not own the problem. Support the team and allow the team to decide themselves how they can better define and have clarity of the problem and what actions to take next. If the problem is too complex, it may take more than one session and it’s fine. However, the team needs to decide what they will do and the outcome to achieve in the next session before ending the first session.

    I may ask
    “what else can we do as a team to have better understanding of the problem?”
    “What kind of outcome do we want to have at the end of this session?”
    “How can we do differently to achieve the outcome?”

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