Its a catastrophe – option 2

I recently published a way for team coaches to help a person or team convert a “Catastrophe” into a plan of attack.

This is another approach to doing the same thing.

In this case we will steal an approach from the book “Sprint.”  Its a great book and you can find out about more about it here – https://www.thesprintbook.com/

When talking to an individual

Step 1 – find a problem to solve

Ask someone how things are going.  Then they list things that need to change or impediments they are facing ….

“I don’t want to complain but management seem to think we are just sitting around sipping tea.  They always complain we are too slow and seem to think we are deliberately trying to work slowly”

The first step is to summarize all that content into one thing:

So management think you are too slow

“Sort of,” they respond, “Actually the issue is they just don’t understand what is involved in getting things done.”

So it seems like they don’t understand what is involved in getting work done

“Yep,” they respond, “you are very perceptive”.

So now we have a problem to tackle – manager (our friend believes) do not understand how much is involved in getting things done.

Step 2 – Turn the statement into a “how might we … ?”  question.

We can talk about the problem, but we might end up just going in circles complaining about it.  Instead we try to refocus our attention on potential solutions.

We do this by re-framing the statement (impediment, issue, concern) as a “How might we” question.  To do this we just  start a sentence with the words “how might we” and then add the problem statement we agreed on.

Hopefully the new wording encourages us to focus on considering actionable alternatives to solving the problem.  If not then it will at least highlight that we disagreed on what the problem was … after which we can focus on actionable alternatives.

Here is an example:

Let’s reword our challenge as a question we can tackle.

How might we help management understand what is really involved in our work?

We are no longer feeling powerless and stuck.  We now have a sense of what we can actually try in order to improve things.

When doing this in a workshop

Let’s apply the same approach to a retrospective, by putting some boxes on a wall.

Give everyone post-it notes and pens.

Put 4 boxes  on a wall (In other words draw 4 boxes, or add headings to a whiteboard or put up some butcher’s paper or something).

a wall c

Find some issues to address

Start the retrospective normally by looking at what went well and what went not so well.  But rather than just talking about it, add things to the boxes on the wall.

Add the issues to the first box – impediments

Have people write down the key goals for improvement, impediments, issues etc.  One issue for each impediment.

Or – if you are tackling one big challenge, have people write down all their issues and thoughts about the challenge on post-it notes.

Have people put their issues up in box 1.

Turn the issues into questions

Next have people scan the issues on box 1.  Then invite people to take one of the issues from box one and change it into a question, worded as “how might we (something)?

Ask people to write the questions on post-it notes and put them up in the second box.

Have people review the questions in box 2. Rather than trying to tackle everything, choose one or two that you can tackle.

Pick the questions people would most like to answer

Move the favourite questions into box 3.

Sometimes people will want you to say “favorite” instead of “favourite” so debate this for a while.  But time-box this debate to 4 minutes as there are diminishing returns in the argument after that 🙂

Generate suggestions to answer some or all of the questions

Now get people to brainstorm alternative answers to the the questions in box 3.  Put these into box 4.

Finally, run through the alternatives and ask people to pick the best one (or two).  Then agree that you are going to act on that suggestion.

That’s it – option 2 is complete.  Try it and see if it works for you.


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