How to determine a problem in your organization (82:365)

9781475800463_p0_v2_s260x420Yesterday I blogged about the importance of determining a problem before offering a solution. This is extremely important when you are approaching improvement in a process-centered, systemic manner. I hope this post offers a practical guide to help your organization determine a problem. I also want to thank the team of authors who wrote the book Journey to High Achieving School.

This practical activity can help your organization develop as many ideas about the problem:


1. What is the problem? In order to define the problem, you need to involve as many people as possible. For instance, at a staff meeting, you could hand out post-its to everyone, and have them brainstorm the problem. This helps people feel part of the process and involves many people. Keep it simple. 3 to 5 issues that your organization is facing. Each post-it should stand alone (note: subjects and verbs). This part should take about 5 minutes.


2. Group work – After everyone has filled out their post-its, have the group go through and read their post-it individually. Each person gets a turn to read. Since this is an idea generating activity, there is to be NO JUDGEMENT. Once again, everyone will feel part of the process! This part should take about 5 minutes depending on the size of the group. I suggest 4 to 6 people per group. Depending your organization, you may want to have people sit where they normally do or assign groups.


3. Affinity – This part of the activity really gets the group dynamics working. In order to curtail the “know it all” or the “loudest” a proper way to affinity the post its is silently. ¬†That’s right, have your small group work silently until all post its are on a big sheet pf paper, and grouped by theme. Most likely, the group will have already seen the trends, and more often than not, the group will have similar ideas on the problem. The group, in silence, will need about 5 minutes to put the post-its together in themes.


4. Report out – After the group has organized their post-its in themes, one person should be appointed to report out to the rest of the participants in the meeting. This way, everyone can see what the small groups were working on. The heading of the themes should describe the ideas. For instance, if 5 people mentioned that the outside of the building is unappealing, then you would categorize that them as “appearance of building.” This should take about 5 to 8 minutes. It is important for the participants to not judge or criticize the group report out.

This entire activity should take about 40-45 minutes.

Next post…. How to get all the ideas into a priority matrix

For more information on this and other practical guides to improving your school, check out the book Journey to High Achieving Schools.

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