Team Meeting

The Best Start to Problem Solving


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 8pm.  But, we weren’t prepared for the work involved.  This included policies, procedures, premises, insurance, Garda vetting and child protection training.  Not to mention membership, volunteers and events.  Our one hour meeting was precious time, given voluntarily.  We aimed to cover just a few items each week.  However, we soon realised that we needed to use our problem-solving skills to address a particular problem.

The Hijack

Those of you who are seasoned meeting attenders may recognise occasions when someone “hijacks” a meeting. Despite the agenda, some attendees have a burning issue that they need to raise and the earlier the better.  We soon found out that someone wanted to hijack our weekly meeting.

I recall one such meeting shortly after our club started in mid-September. This was just after the schools had re-opened.  By November, the evenings were dark.  As our weekly meeting was about to start, 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 7pm until 9pm.  Actually, it was pretty dark by 9pm in November.


The Solutions

Before our regular meeting got underway, we were busy debating how to solve the Friday Night Problem.  We raised lots of ideas.

• We could hire a bus for the dark nights.
• Someone suggested organising a car-pool between the parents.
• Another person wanted to get hi-vis tops for all the children and supervise them walking home.
• One volunteer wanted to write to all the parents asking that they collect their children during the winter months.
• A parent thought we could run the club at an earlier time during the winter.
• Next, someone said we could keep all the children at the club until the parents came to collect their children.
• Finally, we wanted to ensure that we had 2 contact numbers for all children.

As each idea was raised, some people thought of reasons why it could and couldn’t be done.  Around half an hour later, someone asked: “How many children walked home in the dark last Friday?”  Initially, nobody knew.

Understanding the Problem

After a few phone calls, we discovered that no child had actually walked home in the dark.  It seems that a parent had collected two children late.  They were brothers and their father arrived about 5 minutes after 9pm.  In actual fact, we had a very responsible group of parents.  Just one volunteer was 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 to solving an issue without actually understanding the problem. 

In business, we can spend a lot of time and resources on solutions to problems without fully understanding the situation.

8 Step Problem-Solving

We use the 8 step problem-solving methodology to fully understand a problem.  Most importantly, companies need share this with their employees before trying to  implement a solution.

Are you interested in applying 8 Step Problem-Solving in your business and putting these ideas into practice?

We hope you enjoyed reading about our views on the best start to problem solving.  You may also be interested in reading about our insights on the Implementing 5S: The First Steps Towards Workplace Efficiency and Getting to the Root Case: Barclay Chemicals.  All our blogs are available to read here.  Please connect with us on Linkedin and Twitter.