A number of years ago, I was involved in setting up a local youth club. As a volunteer committee, we agreed to meet for one hour each week on a Wednesday at 8 pm. None of us was prepared for the work involved. These included policies, procedures, premises, insurances, Garda vetting, child protection training, not to mention membership, volunteers and events.
Our one-hour meeting was a precious time, given voluntarily and we aimed to cover just a few items each week.
Those of you who are seasoned meeting attenders may recognise occasions when a meeting is ‘hijacked’. Despite the agenda, some attendees have a burning issue which needs to be raised and the earlier the better. Our weekly meetings could easily be hijacked as we learnt early on.
The one I recall dominated a meeting shortly after our club got up and running. We commenced mid-September just after the schools had re-opened. By November, the clock had gone back and the dark evenings drew in. As our weekly meeting was about to commence, one of our volunteers said: “Before we start, I’d just like to say that I don’t think it’s ok for our children to walk home in the dark”.
Our younger members attended the club on a Friday night. They were 5th and 6th class children, aged 10-12 years old. The club ran from 7 pm till 9 pm. It was pretty dark at 9 pm in November.
Before our regular meeting got underway, we were busy debating how to solve the Friday night problem.
Lots of ideas were raised:
• We could hire a bus for the dark nights.
• Organise car-pooling between parents.
• Get hi-vis tops for all the children and supervise them walking home.
• Write to all parents to request that children are to be collected during the winter months.
• Run the club at an earlier time during the winter.
• Keep all the children at the club until they are collected.
• Ensure we have 2 contact numbers for all children.
As each idea was raised, it was met with reasons why it could and why it couldn’t be done. After about 30 minutes, someone asked: “How many children walked home in the dark last Friday?”. Initially, nobody knew.
After a few phone calls, it emerged that no children had actually walked home in the dark. Two children had been collected late – they were brothers – and their parent arrived about 5 minutes after 9 pm. In actual fact, we had a very responsible group of parents and there was one volunteer who got upset at being delayed at the club.
It’s a simple account but as a group, we had given half an hour of our meeting time to solving a problem without actually understanding the problem we were trying to solve. In business, we can spend a lot of time and resources on solutions to problems that are not fully understood.
The 8-step problem-solving methodology is based on demonstrating a full understanding of a problem and sharing this with a team of stakeholders before embarking on selecting a solution. You may be interested in applying 8-step problem-solving in your business and putting these ideas into practice.