As an action learning coach, how would you handle the following situation:
The team members address various perspectives of the problem. Clearly seeing multiple views as to the true nature of the problem. They ask questions that cause them to bounce from one perspective to another to another to another and back to the first. They continually repeat the cycle without settling on which aspect of the challenge to address.
Ask the team to write out the problem statement and read it out for all to hear. Will ask them team if they are aligned on the problem statement after hearing from all.
Will have the team to get alignment on this before moving forward to avoid further confusion on the problem.
Coach could Intervene:
‘We have working on the problem around– minutes. How are we doing as team so far? OK? Not OK?’ Then go around each team member for their answer-‘OK or NOT OK.’
Ask the team:
‘What are we doing well? What else?’
‘What could be done differently ? What else?’
Ask the team and seek answer from each member:
‘Do we have agreement on the problem, yes, no or close? “’
Then direct the team to write down their problem statements , ask each member to read the problem statement, and check again: ‘do we have agreement on the problem, yes, no or close?’
If there’s no consent on the problem at all, ask the team: ’ what does the team decide to do with identifying a single challenge for this actions learning session’
M. van Bers
In this case, it is clear that the participants keep spinning in a circle and do not reach the deeper layer. It is then important to ask the group how they think they are on their own way. Can they answer for themselves what they do well and what could be done differently? If necessary, they can rate themselves as a group. Do we find ourselves meeting our standard and what can we change to take the process to the next level?
After making sure the problem is not due to an agreement on the problem statement and asking the team how they think they are doing as a group, I would if needed (i.e. if they have not observed the spinning) make an observation or ask them if they think they are building on each others questions. And what would be the impact if they did so, making them understand that it would help explore deeper one perspective at a time before exploring the other ones.
I would intervene with script intervention, asking everyone to write and read aloud what they believe is the real problem. After the question: “Is there agreement: yes, no or close”, if one of the answers was “no”, it would address the question: “What would help us to reach consensus?”. The group could work for a few more minutes and I would check the consensus again. If the group still does not reach consensus, it would ask, “What part of the problem do we have consensus on?” to ensure alignment, even if partial, to move on to the solution-seeking phase.
I would ask the team to write down their individual perspectives of the problem and have them all read it out.
After this round, I would ask the problem owner to rewrite his/her perspective. Then I would ask if the group agrees that this is a valid description of the problem and if we can reach consensus or commitment to keeping this as the main problem.
If other perspectives are as important, they do deserve their own session.