Many Action Learning coaches are comfortable coaching the first session but feel much less secure of their coaching role in subsequent sessions. These feelings are understandable because the role of the coach is very straight-forward in the first session because every problem, no matter how complex, must start with understanding and defining the problem (the source of the pain or dissatisfaction). The process or steps that the team must go through in the first session, therefore, are very predictable leading to the creation of a script that works well for virtually any problem. The debriefing process, likewise, is also very similar for almost any problem.
Beginning with the second session, however, the situation becomes much more complex. In many cases, the team will realize that the initial problem statement is inadequate or more of a goal (the situation the organization hopes to achieve) rather than a presentation of the current situation that is dissatisfactory. The presenting problem may even be a solution because the problem presenter has already decided how to solve the problem before giving it to the team to develop its own solution. If, as is usually the case, the team needs to drill down further to understand the problem or even back up to define the problem, the coach can’t apply a simple script. Not only must the coach recognize that the team is starting with a goal or solution without adequately defining the problem, but they must craft questions that encourage team members to reflect on their working definition to make sure that they have adequately defined the problem. The questions that are appropriate in this process cannot be put into a script to be used for every problem.
After the team has adequately defined the problem and goal, it must apply a proper problem-solving strategy in order to generate great solutions that are both powerful and creative. The stages of problem solving that teams need to go through include: identify of forces that drive or restrain goal achievement, solution generation, critiquing solution ideas, selecting the best ideas, implementing the best ideas and evaluating the results. Each of these stages has different requirements and common obstacles to high performance that require specially crafted questions during the work and debriefing sessions.
In up-coming blogs, I will describe each of these stages in more detail. You will also find much more information about assessing the team requirements, constructing effective questions, and running expert debriefing sessions in our new book Great Solutions Through Action Learning: Success Every Time.
Master Action Learning Coach