Returning to my work in IT it strikes me how easy it is to slip into business as usual, to succumb to 'that's how we've always done things'. Therefore I'd like to share our experience, tools and methods used in our community problem-solvingP events, which I organize together with Lea Mentlikova and Radek Dobrovolny back home in the Czech Republic. We bring together projects and people who at times do not know each other and we are working on the problems projects are struggling with. It's a non-confrontational approach to the problem solving, which uses knowledge and experience of the group and at the same time helps to build relationships. So why not to try this in your organization?
The tools we use are based on Art of Participatory Leadership known also as Art of Hosting, set of conversational processes to achieve better decision-making and more effective capacity building.
Our program is designed as one day workshop for 15 to 20 participants. Participants will work in rotating groups of 5, so plan for 3 to 4 facilitators who have good analytical thinking, are able to step aside, to steer the conversation and above all are good listeners (I know it's plenty to ask but we all are improving these skills with practice).
In one workshop we work with 3 different projects and participants from different backgrounds willing to help. In your organization you may prefer to focus on a single problem or go with 3 teams as we do. In both cases invite employees who are not directly connected to the problem on hand. Why is it important to have a diverse group? You will get fresh and varied perspectives. It will help you to build a sense of 'my opinion matters' among employees. And - we've all been there - limit situations within the organization when left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.
Before you begin, lay out a couple of basic rules for everyone to follow:
We start with defining a problem. Each 'problem team' can ask one question that participants will help them to answer in order to solve the problem. To put the problem into context, team creates a short (5 to 10 mins) presentation. We prepared set of the following questions to help teams to introduce the problem to outsiders:
Note: Regardless the size of your organization, it may be interesting to learn about the team personal visions and values, which they bring to the project.
Following the presentation, we run Pro-Action cafe session. We form small groups with a 'problem leader' and facilitator. Session is made of 3 rounds based on three questions. Participants are changing tables after each round, leader and facilitator remain at their table for all rounds. Leader responds to and asks the participants and uses facilitator to help him to systematize the feedback. Facilitator listens, steers the discussion back to the topic if it drifts away, writes down all important thoughts (mind map is a good visual tool to use) and looks for new connections.
The 3 questions of Pro-Action cafe are:
Most of the times, the first question uncovers that the problem presented in the beginning was only a consequence of some deeper issue. The second question develops further the emerging new picture and the third question drives participants towards the possible solutions.
We plan for two session of Pro-Action cafe to allow participants to examine outcomes of the first round in greater detail.
Depending on the results of the Pro-Action cafe and energy flow, you can follow up working on the solutions identified in the next steps.
At the end of the day we create a circle to harvest reflections, to discuss what have participants learnt, what they appreciated most and what would they change next time and we close the workshop.
This is just a short outline of the workshop so please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have any questions, or for more resources.