Defining the Problem: reflecting on the 4th meeting

Now that my last assignment has been shoved out the door, I can take the time to update my blog and reflect on the path our working party is travelling down.

At the beginning of the meetings we always ask for PITS – any personal or interpersonal issues that need to be discussed before we begin. At this meeting the senior teacher wished to discuss the preciseness of the survey results. Given that some members did not have all the facts about issues (ie. amount of prep time given to teachers) she felt the results would not reflect reality and would change the results. There was more discussion about the purpose of the survey exercise — which was not to collect facts but perceptions of problems/symptoms in order to generate statements to lead to a root cause.

I have concerns that at the end of the PITS discussion this person was not convinced. An agenda is revealing itself in this case and I am relying somewhat on the fact that the rest of the group is also aware of this agenda and is working well together to stay on track with the bigger picture of what they are trying to do.

The group next looked over the results of the survey and we focussed on any areas that had gaps of 2.0 or more between actual and desired conditions. From these gap areas I had prepared analysis summary statements (ahead of time) but asked for feedback to modify them if necessary.

One example analysis summary statement:

“School and community need to communicate more effectively”.

There were seven statements in all. Using the seven summary statements on a white board I took the group through an exercise using an Interrelationship Digraph structuring tool in order to determine the cause of the SITNA.

There was much discussion as to which ways the arrows should go (pointy end to what is affected) on a couple of the areas but over all everyone was satisfied with the result at the end.

At the end of the exercise a question was put to the group —

Q. Are these symptoms of another, bigger problem or is one or more of these the root cause of the short-fall SITNA?

The group agreed that while two other factors were key drivers, management/leadership issues were the root cause of the problem. There was unanimous all five’s ‘fist-o’-five’ consensus on this.

With only twenty minutes left in the set meeting time — we celebrated the fact that we had defined our problem and went home early on a small high. ( I did mention that Step 2 was not complete until outcomes were also stated but wanted to finish on a win).

I know that management issues has been an obvious problem to everyone but the victory that night was that they arrived at the definition through a proper process. The problem definition has been validated. Also now everyone knows and knows they have agreed. This group has resolved to find a solution to the real SITNA not leave it in the too hard basket.


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