Scenario: Missing Action

As an Action Learning Team Coach how would you handle the following situation: A team member did not complete the tasks that she had agreed to do at the session held last month.

Tags: Action Learning Coach

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Comments (17)

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    charles jones

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    This is an issue for the team, no matter how tempting it might be for the A/L coach to mete out punishment to the offender. A/L requires action as a key component–there is no learning without action–so the process will get bogged down if actions are left undone. Therefore, the question to the team might be, “What is the impact to the team when agreed upon actions are not completed on schedule?” This could be followed up with the standard questions, “How are we doing? What are we doing well? What can we do to improve?

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    Valerie Lingeman

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    I would follow the same approach Charles describes the first time this happens.

    If it happens repeatedly (people not following through on commitments) and the team does not address it with a conversation, then another issue could be at hand: What is our willingness to have difficult conversations?
    Team members need to develop the ability to make and also renegotiate commitments with each other, as needed. Sometimes people are less skillful at — or feel they don’t have permission to renegotiate. I would just be attentive to whether a pattern is emerging and tailor my coaching questions to test my theory, staying fully open to the possibility I could be wrong, and trusting that the team will address issues in its own time.

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    Ronney

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    I’d be cautious to strike a balance between ensuring action is embodied as an important element for AL and cultivating an open, trust and accepting rather than blaming and punitive culture in the group.
    If the person didn’t complete the action, there must be a reason behind, part of which may be within his/her control and part may be not, e.g., change of the circumstances. Besides status of actions, I’d also ask each group member to share reason if the action is not completed. I’d also ask the group how to increase the chance that individual actions are completed as much as possible.

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    Christina Reis

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    I agree with both Valerie and Charles. If the pattern persists, it may be hard for the group to progress, which could also impact the effectiveness of the group. Addressing the impact of not completing the task is a start and may also allow the opportunity to address how the group would handle this in future. I also see Valerie’s point about the willingness to have difficult conversation. The 3 standard questions, How are we doing as a group? What are we doing well? and What can we do better? may help the group be more aware of what is going on within the group and may help surface other issues that the group may want to discuss.

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    Christina Reis

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    I agree that there could be reasons that a member was not able to complete the tasks as agreed and could be a one off issue. However, should this persist, this could impact the group working together effectively. The question ‘How would this impact the group if the issue of not completing the tasks persists?’ would allow the opportunity for the group to discuss how they would handle the issue should it persist. The standard 3 questions ‘How are we doing as a group?’ What are we doing well?’ What could we do better?’ are simple questions yet so helpful for the group to address open up discussion further..

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    Sharon Swinburn

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    I agree with comments from others such as this is an issue for the team to resolve. Questions a coach may ask the team are, “When actions are not completed, what is the impact to the team’s success? How might the team assist each other in getting the actions completed? What is the impact if actions continue to be delayed?

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    Larry Voeller

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    If the group members did not raise the issue, I would add a minor addition to the questions at the conclusion of the session: “How are we doing as a group – both in our ongoing learning and in our actions?” and then add the accompanying questions as suggested by others.

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    Philipp Werenfels

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    Missing Action is an important topic in team performance. Thus, I would spend some time discussing learning opportunities and ask questions such as:
    “How is the team’s performance impacted if someone does not complete what he/she agreed to?”
    “What strategies could we use in the future that prevent missing actions?”
    “Do you need more time at the end of the meeting to discuss and decide next steps (e.g., actions required for the next meeting such as research, etc.)?”
    “How do you want to deal with situations when action wasn’t taken?”

    During the discussions, we will learn if the missing action was resolved between meetings and became obsolete, how important the action was to the team performance, and develop strategies on how to deal with missing actions.

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    Phil Cohen

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    My concern as an AL coach is not to single out an individual or embarrass him/her and at the same time help to ensure that the team can accomplish its goals as effectively as possible. Therefore, I would not say anything until the the issue of the individual not taking action on the task agreed to surfaced during discussion. I assume as in most structured meetings, each action point from the previous meeting is addressed. When this occurs the individual will have to face the group and at that time, the group may chastise that person or ignore his lack of attention to the needs of the group. If the latter should occur it would be at that time that I would intervene with the questions “How are we doing…What could we do better… or What impact is there on the group when required information is not delivered on a timely basis?

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    Erik Mazziotta

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    Since action is required to create impact, I would inquire as to “What is the impact on the team of not meeting deliverables.” keeping it non-personal to open up a learning conversation rather than a potetentially defensive conversation. The larger issue with commitments in my view is not about the thing not getting done but the person’s/teams “Integrity and Trust”…. can I rely on you to keep your word, even as stuff does happen….from failure of other to deliver work that our work depends on to kids who get sick, etc. “What is the impact on the interpersonal level” is a follow up question I might ask as well as “What can you do to support each other in keeping your commitments” would be a question I would also ask.

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      Valerie Lingeman

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      Eric, I really like the follow up questions you included here. Thanks. A nice way to build a supportive team, without embarassing the negligent team member.

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    Anne Teresa

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    Wow, I bet this never happens. 🙂 I might go back and revisit the actions that were agreed on at the last session, then ask the problem presenter “what is the level of urgency/importance of this problem?”, trying not to put the owner in a defensive position but instead elicit how big a deal it is, or to see if we need to reframe the problem by taking on just one part of it. At some point I might ask “how could the group support you now”?

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    Donna Christophersen

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    I am always amazed by the effectiveness of the simple question, “What is the impact to the team when actions have not been completed?” The last time I asked that question, team members responded with both comments (It slows our progress toward solving the problem.) and another powerful question (What does incomplete action say about our commitment to solving the problem?). Following up with, “What do we want to do about it?” brings more learning opportunities for the group to explore why the action was not completed and how they can begin to hold one another accountable moving forward. I agree the team needs to work out these solutions, not the coach.

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    Catherine Breathnach

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    I agree with a lot of the responses made to date. I think I would wait until the issue arises in the group and at my next intervention ask ” How are we doing as a group? What are we doing well? How could we do better?”. If the group doesn’t raise or respond to the unfinished action, I would then ask “How are we at implementing the decisions we make? What would help us be more effective in doing this?”. I would try not to focus on the particular individual involved as this may just increase the feeling of defensiveness , and perhaps contribute to the development of a culture of ‘fear’ in the group.

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  • Dr Bea

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    The answer so far have been great.

    Typically, the follow on session will start with those that had actions answering the question – Where do you stand with your action? Note: in a large problem like this most likely everyone on the team will have actions. Which would highlight the missing action very quickly.

    I haven’t tried it myself but another coach mentioned what he does as each person reports out is to asks them what they learned while completing (or not completing) the action. This can lead to very interesting learnings.

    My tact is typically, to ask the question – What’s the impact on the team when actions are completed.

    I worked with one team that most of the members were not completing on time. And what came to light was that the culture does not premit them to turn down assignments even though they know they will not be able to complete them. This gave rise to the development of some norms within the team that allowed the members to only accept as much as they could reasonable take on.

    Happy Coaching
    Bea

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    WANGPEIJIE

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    As a coach , I think Missing Action is an important topic in team performance. Thus, I would spend some time discussing learning opportunities and ask questions to the team until the team agree with their promise and taking action.

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    jacinta Bailey-Sobers

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    As and action learning coach to avoid the person closing up during the session if they are picked on with regard to their non completion of their assignment, I will let the session commence and allow persons who have completed to share on their exercises and to highlight how it helped toward solving the issue. When the person’s turn arrives and they indicate that they were unable to complete, I would ask the team ‘does this situation have any impact on the team’s outcomes? How? Then I will ask whether the team wants to take any action on the matter.

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