4 ways to stay out of the weeds when team problem solving

May 1st, 2011 by Gallagher John No Comments

You know the story.  You are in a meeting working on a problem as a team.  You start the meeting and before you know it, you are debating for an hour and you check in and forget why you were having the meeting(“in the weeds”).    Here is what it looks like:

You can’t see a thing because you are so deeply mired in personal agendas that you can’t see what is possible.

So, how do you ensure you stay out of the weeds?  Here are 4 ways to do that with your team:

1) Define the case for action – Why are you trying to solve the problem?  Is it proactive or reactive?  Keep it as concise and short as possible.  You should also be able to use your case for action to ‘check-in’ during your problem solving session.  Review periodically to make sure you are staying on task

2) Define the scope – Too often, our scope is so large that it feels like we are trying to boil the ocean, when we really only want a hard-boiled egg! 

3) Define your current reality– Put this in metrics if possible.  It may be how long it is taking you to do something, error rate, or your grade in a class.  You have to know where you are before you know where you want to go

4) Define your desired state– How will you know you have solved the problem?  What does success look like?

When you have these 4 things outlined then, and ONLY then, should you start talking about the barriers, the obstacles, the problem.  Doing these 4 things will improve your problem solving effectiveness so that the problem never happens again.  Then, your view will change to this:

Has this ‘in the weeds’ situation happened before with your team?  How did you get out of the weeds?