Scenario: Too Slow

As an Action Learning Coach how would you handle the following situation:

You are coaching a leadership development program with a group of senior engineers…One of them is a Six Sigma Black Belt with years of experience in problem solving methods.  During the middle of your second meeting to frame the problem, the Black Belt notes that it is taking way too long to come to agreement on the problem.  Some of the Type A members of the group nod their heads in agreement.  What do you do?

Tags: Action Learning Coach, WIAL Action Learning

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Comments (12)

  • Avatar

    BecciWalker

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    The entire group may or may not feel this is an issue, so I would definitely like to explore this. I think it’s great that the senior engineer has identified a possible learning opportunity for the entire group (improve the speed of their problem solving). First I’d like to gauge the broader group’s feelings, so I’d ask ‘What is the impact of this observation?’ If the impact of the observation is generally felt to be positive (identified an area for improvement) then we could explore how the group would like to make the improvement. If the impact of the observation is not felt to be positive by everyone (e.g.. the Black belt would like us to use a structured approach, but we would like to try an alternative way), we could explore the impact of the observation, and ask the team how they wanted to handle the situation.

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  • Avatar

    Arend

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    My question to the group would be “What is the impact of this intervention to the group?”.
    And independent of their positive or negative reaction I would ask them how they want to solve this situation.
    After this I would ask or there is agreement in the way they want to solve this.
    If yes, I would ask them to continue with……….
    If not I’ll ask them what the need to solve this. I can imaging we make a second action learning discussion with the problem statement “what is needed to improve the speed of agreement on a problem”.

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    • Avatar

      zhangxi

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      I am very argee with Arend’s opinion,especially the question to the group!

      Reply

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    Chris G

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    I would try and keep this low key and simple in my role as the AL coach, firstly asking What is the importance on having consensus on the problem, if we are to get to the solution stage? and see what reaction was received from the group. I could further ask (depending on the response) another question around What would help the team to get consensus faster?, from those questions I am sure this would generate group involvement and a direction then set for the session.

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  • Avatar

    Helen E

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    i think it would be important that everyone were in agreement that an agreement of the problem was taking too long in coming.i would ask a question like ‘are we all in agreement that the problem should be clear by now?’ if it were a general concensus, then it would make it easier to assist the problem presenter as it would appear everyone already understood the problem and could then proffer solutions.as coach, i would allow the group delve into ‘solution mode’, but only if there was a consensus that the problem was well understood.

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  • Avatar

    lanzeng

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    As AL coach, I would let the team to make their own decisions. Through asking them questions like, “How do you think of our discussion process?” “What’s your suggestions? Why?”
    Then I will ask each one of them write down their opinions on the paper and read it out. After this I would ask the team’s solution about this issue. If the team makes agreement to continue, we will continue.
    If the team changes their idea, I may ask them to analysis the advantages and disadvantages to do so, after that, let them make a decision. Finally, we will use this case to do the reflection. It’s a learning point.

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  • Avatar

    AlvinSim

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    I will ask:
    – How are we doing so far on a scale of 1- 10?
    – What could we do better?

    Then get the team to write down and read out their problem statements. I will ask the problem-presenter whose problem statement he/she will like to explore and why. If the team is agreeable, we will proceed from there.

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  • Avatar

    Faz_Kamaruddin

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    Hi everyone!

    As the type A members nod their heads in agreement, I will listen / look for any uncomfortable silence that indicates disagreement with that partial consensus.

    1. I will then ask: “Team, do we have an agreement on the problem? Yes or no?” and I will get each person to answer.

    2. After everyone has answered, I will tell the group “Let’s take a minute for everyone to write down what they think the problem is, to see if we have agreement as to the real problem.”

    3. I will then ask everyone to share their statements with the team. If a team member responds with something that is not a problem statement, I will ask “So, what is the problem?”

    4. After each member shares their statement I will ask again “Do we have agreement on the problem? Yes or no?”

    At this point, at least 2 things may happen:
    a. the team reaches an agreement on the problem
    b. the possible discomfort between some members of the group and the Six Sigma Black Belt (who may appear to be supported by the type A members) will be more obvious
    c. the team does not reach an agreement on the problem.

    If b and/or c happen/s,

    I will:

    5. Ask “How is the group doing?” Potential answers could include “We are rushing to define a problem that we are not yet clear about”, “We are taking too much time to talk around the problem without defining it” or the like, which may lead to an awareness that the consensus is partial or even forced and not authentic

    6. I will then ask “How will the quality of the solution be impacted?” – to aim for double-loop learning where any underlying assumptions that only experts and the more experienced people bring value to a problem solution is challenged.

    7. I will then ask “What can we do to improve?” and move on after the answers with “Who has the next question?” to end my intervention.

    HOWEVER,

    if the uncomfortable silence that indicates disagreement with that partial consensus is too obvious, I will address that elephant in the room by going to step no. 5 immediately and take that learning opportunity to help the team build their cohesion before moving towards problem clarity.

    Thanks.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    MB

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    As coach I would ask the following (depending on responses):
    * On a scale of 1-10, how are we doing as a team?
    * What could we do better?
    * On a scale from 1-5, how does each member rate the current process of identifying the problem?
    * How can we move the team closer to 5?
    * What is the impact on the team if people cannot agree on the problem?

    Reply

  • Avatar

    susie

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    I think this is a good team learning opportunity, I will according to the scene to intervene, and asked the following question:
    Everybody how look upon this problem?
    Do you have a better solution?
    How to improve the efficiency of the discussion?

    Reply

  • Avatar

    DrBea

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    Great responses!

    I’d start with – thank you for the observation, let’s check where we are in terms of agreement on the problem. Then I would ask each person –
    Do we have agreement as to what the real challenge we should be working on today is? Just yes or no.

    Ok. Now I’d like each of you to write down in your own words, what the challenge we are working on today. You will each only get to read what you’ve written. Once you are done writing please put down your pens.

    After everyone has completed their thoughts. I’d go around the table asking each person to read what they’ve written. (Note: I would hold them to only reading what they had written.)

    After each has read. I would go around the table again and ask – Do we have agreement on the problem? Yes, No or Close?

    Regardless of the answers, I would ask – Why is it important that we have agreement on the problem before identifying solutions?

    What would help us get to agreement?

    Thank you. Who has the next question?

    (Note: The problem presenter frequently clarity of the real problem is no better than the rest of the team members, therefore I would focus on team agreement rather than trying to agree with the PP).

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

    Reply

  • Avatar

    xyvivien

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    This is an interesting scenario and it did happen in one of my AL sessions. In this situation, as AL coach, I think we need to keep calm and give some time to the team and see how team dynamic flow. I think as AL coach, we need to trust the team is ‘by nature talented and resourceful’ somehow, so they can move from forming to this storming stage and they also most likely have the capability to come to the norming stage. So the first step we need to do is give time. After a while, if we see they stuck or there’s a very obvious learning opportunity pop up, we start to intervene. Questions I will likely ask are:

    1. What just happened? (this is such a simple and powerful question which provide tons of possibilities and potential reflections to the team.)
    2. As a team how are we doing from scale 1 – 10 (typical AL question) if needed
    3. What the impact on the team?
    4. What’s good out of this and we can do differently?
    5. What alignment we may need to have at this stage?
    6. What’s next?

    Overall speaking, the amazing part of AL is ‘here and now’. Therefore, as AL coach, I think the most important value we can add to the session is to help people keep mindful about what’s happening here and now, then reflect and learn from the process.

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