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The purpose of this topic helps groups focus and normalize discussions when there are many symptoms, causes, preventions, and cures that should be considered.

In most meetings, an array of multiple agents or actors need to act through a new plan or process. You need to structure and normalize discussions to get more done quickly.

Normalize Discussions — Rationale

While meetings waste much time because they lack structure, and most will generate some good ideas. Therefore, the problem with most meetings is that the group of participants do not know if they “got it all”, how they can measure their progress, and how much work remains to be done.

Normalize Discussions — Method

This approach can be modified and furthermore harmonizes with the second step of Brainstorming called Analysis. Therefore, with a complex problem, consider the following:

  • Confirm the purpose of the solution state or the ideal condition. Describe the way things ought be when there is no problem and everything is working properly according to design.
  • Fully define the problem state or condition, building consensus around the way things are at present.
  • Identify all the potential symptoms that make it easy to characterize the problem or issue. Consider symptoms to be “externally identifiable factors” that can be seen and observed objectively, such as “tardiness.”
  • For each symptom identify all possible causes (or consider Root Cause Analysis [aka RCA] or the Ishikawa Diagram).
  • Identify the people, agents, or actors that will participate in the solution or plan (eg, participants, management, contractors, etc.).
  • Populate a matrix with the agents against a timeline as shown below. The simplest way to approach the x dimension separately covers the before and after phases (such as what can be done to prevent each cause and what can be done to cure for each cause by each agent).
  • With the group at large or using sub-teams with assigned areas, develop all potential responses or actions with every agent across the timeline (see below) with each cause, one at a time.

Solution Stack

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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