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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Action Learning Components: The Problem

Over this week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the FOURTH of several posts on Action Learning.

The Problem (project, challenge, opportunity, issue or task).

As humans, we all respond to problems—especially if they belong to us, or if someone asks for our help. The difference with Action Learning is rather than start by giving advice, we start by asking questions and finding out what the real problem is. Albert Einstein once said to Reg Ravens (the Father of AL): “If you think you understand the problem, make sure you’re not deceiving yourself.” Here’s a conversation between two geniuses and note the caveat: Don’t fool yourself! Often times defining the problem takes the most time. Otherwise, you may spend a lot of energy solving exactly the wrong problem. Here are just a few questions that Marquardt raises in this section of the book:

a. Is the problem significant and important to the organization and/or the individual?
--Remember tough, critical problems raise the stakes, the excitement and the commitment to solve them. Also, the more urgent the problem, the better.

b. Is the problem within the scope, feasibility, and understanding of one or more group members?
--Scale and capacity work here. Is the problem within the capacity of those trying to solve it? Everyone doesn’t need to be an expert, but should have some experience with the problem available to those working to solve it.

C. Will the group or a member of the group have authority to take action?
--Critical question: If the group feels that their action may not be implemented, they can lose energy and engagement, which can lead to group/team disintegration.

d. Do we acknowledge that the presented problem may not be the real or most important problem for the group to solve?
--Researchers note that the initial problem presented is RARELY the most critical one. And only after discussion about the original question does the REAL key problem emerge.

Note: The author asks a number of other very good questions in this chapter...so read the entire text. Well worth the effort.

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