iStock Group Problem Solving

iStock Group Problem Solving

The idea of group problem solving makes sense. If everyone helps and is committed to the outcome, you get more done in a shorter time frame.

Working on your own, on the other hand, has limits. Diverse strengths, skills and complex decision making are limited by the skills, talent and perspective one person.  This is why teams are so important in business success.  Unfortunately group problem solving strategies that contribute to success frequently fail.

Why is this?

It takes a lot of players with many moving parts to make an organization successful.  Each team member is valuable to the whole. Team members are also human. Problems and confusion can quickly arise when disagreements occur or egos are challenged. For example, tasks go incomplete or people miss deadlines.

To avoid these issues, Managers benefit from learning group facilitation methods that contribute to high levels of group member commitment and accountability.  Therefore, it is wise to invest in proven programs. These programs lead Managers to facilitate group problem solving success.

Of the six TIGERS® Principles, genuineness, interdependence and risk keep teams out of predictable group problem solving problems when supporting behaviors are appropriately understood.  When Managers are trained to facilitate group problem solving where group behavior is co-created and agreed to by everyone, group problem solving is successful.

Use proven team exercises to establish group behavior norms

The TIGERS Team Wheel™ exercise is a facilitation that teaches teams the behaviors that build strong teams and behaviors that cause predictable problems.  The subsequent  team discussion is designed to help the team sign off on co-created group norms of behavior and ground rules that keep teams functional when problems arise.  This exercise creates the foundation for team members to successfully cooperate to achieve goals with high levels of commitment and accountability.

The following strategies also improve group problem solving performance:
Identify the necessary time span

Sometimes teams are created and remain “as-is” indefinitely.  Yet, their initiatives have timelines.

Other groups are created solely to achieve a certain goal or complete a specified project.  Known as pop-up teams, these teams are typically composed of employees or contracted freelancers who specialize in specific areas of work. They are brought together to complete a specific project.

The employees filling teams like these must have:

  • A clear understanding of their roles within the team;
  • Accountability for relationship norms and ground rules that support cooperative relationships;
  • Commitment and accountability for the planning timeline; and,
  • Understanding when their tasks must be completed so others downstream can complete their tasks.

A team leader must also be in place to ensure responsibility for the quality and the relevancy of the work. The team leader is also the person responsible for reporting to senior leaders who are tracking the group’s progress and funding.

Pop-up teams, while seemingly innovative, are not new and have proven to be effective in past endeavors. For example, TIGERS Success Series facilitated the reorganization of a Native American furniture factory.  After applying to the American Native Association to obtain a $1.5 million loan to float the Enterprise payroll, TIGERS pulled together a pop-up team composed of the following five experts:

  1. A senior business plan writer and marketer;
  2. A TIGERS team dynamic and group development specialist;
  3. A Native American drug and alcohol counselor;
  4.  An award winning  furniture designer;  and,
  5. An engineer from Gonzaga University who specialized in work-flow design and efficiency.

The net result was a quick turnaround in profit for the company and complete loan payback.

The TIGERS pop-up team accomplished this task by members signing an agreement that clearly defined:

  • The ground rules for working together;
  • Accountability for each team member;
  • Recourse for conflict resolution or not fulfilling obligations to the timeline and product; and,
  • A written schedule and description of assigned tasks and when each task needed to be completed.

The team members used the TIGERS Team Wheel™ exercise to build their group norms and to identify behaviors that would build collaboration rather than tumbling into the storming stage of group dynamics.  This is the stage that often causes group problem solving teams to fail. It is fret with group member conflict and misunderstandings. As a result of their careful planning, only one team member needed to be reminded of their signed accountability statement and financial penalties.

The bottom line is that Managers who facilitate these co-created team agreements are freed from conflict monitoring. Reminders maybe required when a team member slacks off.  Ultimately, however, management freedom means that the Manager is able to accomplish their work. They escape the drama that failing group problem solving teams frequently face.

Share information to avoid “groupthink”

A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found that the wisdom of the crowd comes from the equality of the network.  Traditionally, the wisdom of the crowd was believed to be dictated by how little the team members communicated with one another. The purpose was to ensure that team members were not swaying each other’s opinions. But the research suggests that the group can make each other smarter when they share information and enhance understanding.

To achieve this, the network must be egalitarian and influence must be spread equally among team members. With proper management facilitation skills (TIGERS tier one management facilitation training and TIGERS tier two training), the results not only improve group intelligence, but also improve accountability for planning roll out and implementation. This strategy also helps group members avoid group-think.

Groupthink is a group problem solving dysfunction.  It is caused by strong leaders or group members who discourage other members from thinking creatively or offering dissenting positions or questioning group direction.  Group members are shamed or ridiculed for thinking differently or challenging the status quo. Sometimes members are shunned.

The most recent and highly publicized example of groupthink were tweets by the President of the United States against Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Her vote against the Senate’s version of the Health Care Bill based on her opinion that it would hurt Alaskan citizens was met with social media insult and ridicule. The tweets were an attempt to shame her into voting along strict party lines.

Groupthink is one of three group problem solving dysfunctions. The other two are Risky Shift and Abilene Complex.

Risky shift is thinking that the group made the decision so the individual has no accountability. Abilene is a niceness problem. Someone you like wants to do something and you go along with it just to be nice. If it turns out bad, it’s their fault.

All three scenarios occur when groups lack genuineness, a warped sense of interdependence and risk ignorance.  This is mitigated by forming co-created group norms, ground rules and expert management facilitation.

Launching group problem solving with the TIGERS Team Wheel™ exercise

The TIGERS Team Wheel exercise is the ideal place to start when building group problem  teams. It quickly cuts through behavior confusion. It opens lines of communication among team members. It also cuts short team “storming”. This is the phase of group formation that group problem solving teams face shortly after they form.

Instead of being plagued by confusion, misunderstandings and conflict, team members are better able to achieve:

  • Wise team decision making
  • Competent group problem solving
  • Better team member morale, engagement and increased talent retention due to high performance work relationships
  • Improved employee accountability
  • Improved employee commitment for outcomes
  • The sharing of individual team member strengths that benefit outcomes
  • Reduced conflict
  • An improved sense of psychological belonging
  • Team conflict resolution

TIGERS Success Series trains executives to use this tool to build high performance behavioral norms and group ground rules.  Frequently, prolonged conflict is addressed and resolved for in-place teams.

The exercise and subsequent facilitation is one of three management facilitation training. Facilitators who graduated from the program include six sigma consultants, disc specialists and people grounded in the scientific community.  With the TIGERS Team Wheel exercise, leaders and team members are able to cut to the root behavior issues facing their teams and create a culture of respect that builds loyalty, commitment, collaboration and employment stability.

Teams are a valuable group problem solving resource for any organization. The key is addressing why conflict arises before it rears its ugly head.

What matters is how leaders handle the group norm and ground rule infractions when they arise. With proper training and the six TIGERS principles for success, leaders can avoid groupthink, risky shift and Abilene while leading their teams to success.

Some additional group problem solving strategies for successful teams include:

  • Identifying the ideal time span for the team to effectively achieve results;
  • Sharing information to avoid groupthink; and,
  • Utilizing the TIGERS Team Wheel exercise to clearly define roles, goals, group norms, ground rules and responsibilities.

With these group problem solving strategies, teams can be successful and reach their goals without failure.

Care to dig deeper into this group problem solving topic?

The following resources dig deeper in to group problem solving and the TIGERS 6 Principles™.

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

About TIGERS® Success Series, Inc.

TIGERS® Success Series is a Bend, Oregon Leadership and Team Improvement Consultant that helps committed leaders build more cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for improved success.

We do this by deploying the TIGERS® team facilitation process that improves workforce behaviors that are anchored by trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk resolution and success. Providing diagnostics and customized team interventions,  you can improve both work culture and transform your adequate teams into exceptional ones.

We also license and train HRD Executives, Project Managers, Managers, and Trainers in the use of our award winning resources. Invite us to present at your next business retreat or association gathering.

For more information, call 1+ 541-385-7465.