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A lot of wise, published, and acclaimed authors simply do not ‘get it.’ Presumably, most spend time in classroom environments and doing research, but less frequently do they practice what they preach.What is missing from most group approaches to problem solving, that must appear transparent to most writers, but is not? Capturing a sense of Purpose behind the solution—what are we trying to accomplish.

If they did, we would not discover the purpose is missing from their many approaches to group problem solving. Notice the traditional approach calls for steps that are quite similar, without regard to purpose:

What Important Key is Missing from Most Group Approaches to Problem Solving ?

Something is Missing Here

  1. Problem identification
  2. Problem diagnosis
  3. Solution generation
  4. Solution evaluation
  5. Choice

Missing in Problem Solving

What is missing from most group approaches to problem solving, that must appear transparent to most writers, but is not? Capturing a sense of Purpose behind the solution—what are we trying to accomplish. Using a simple example in our private lives, we may identify (1) the need for new underwear, realizing that the existing choices remain sub-optimal (2). Therefore we go to the store where we find various packs on the shelves (3). Given the price, size, style, color, quantity, brand, etc. (4) we make our choice (5).

However, our choice is largely dependent on the purpose of the underwear. Are they for everyday use, formal wear, athletic wear, etc.? Our purpose will strongly influence our choice, but Purpose is frequently omitted from many problem solving methods. Seemingly, the authors lack experience in real meetings to see how important it is to build consensus around WHY we are doing something before we discuss WHAT we should do (and eventually HOW it will be done).

Conflict in Problem Solving

We have frequently seen meetings begin to unravel until we re-directed the group back to the purpose. Without consensually agreed upon purpose, there is no common ground for appeal to reconcile arguments and necessary trade-offs.

From an academic perspective, various methods have been described to resolve meeting conflict, such as:

  • Compromise (lose-lose)
  • Forcing (voting, or win-lose)
  • Integrative (win-win)
  • Smoothing
  • Withdrawal

Our entire curriculum is devoted exclusively to discovering an integrative, win-win solution. Each of the methods above yield different consequences measured by . . .

  • Solution acceptance
  • Solution quality
  • Team or group maintenance (or ownership)

Follow the guidelines suggested by our MG RUSH facilitative leadership curriculum and you will discover that ownership begins with common purpose. If you fail to facilitate agreement about purpose before you tackle the problem, you risk solution acceptance, solution quality, and team maintenance that are essential components to any solid approach that claims to be a valid group problem solving method.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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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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