Table of Contents, How To Manage Meetings Resources Page
Previous Section, How To Manage Meetings Next Section, How To Manage Meetings

Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Chapter 7. Conducting Problem-Solving Meetings

Introduction

The purpose of a problem-solving meeting is TO FOSTER DISCUSSION of your topic. Most people are not trained for leading participative discussions. Asked to chair a meeting, managers may have no idea how to proceed. Most of the time people fall back on their own experiences, which can be good or bad, but at least it's a guideline, so the thinking goes. This section shows how to lead a discussion so that the meeting objective is achieved, participants have enough "air time" so that they feel their issues have been heard, and managers gather employee input to guide decision making. Meanwhile, remember this!

DO call a meeting when:

DON'T call group meetings when:

Most managerial work is conducted through meetings, since meetings function as information-processing systems. People discuss issues and make decisions which, in turn, form organizational policy. Thus, organizations very well may succeed or fail based on the strength of their meetings!

What is a "good" meeting? Issues are discussed, and decisions are made. The decisions are well-considered and require no rework. Plus, those who attend enjoy the process and feel good about their participation, even if their favored view isn't selected as the best choice. ( This is the goal of meeting management - having "good" meetings! Now, if a meeting consists of well-considered decisions in which people participate fully, how do we do the "well-considered" part? Through effective discussions!

Purpose of Problem-Solving Discussion

Discussions vary according to time, circumstance, and people, but universally, they are social activities. Our democratic society favors direct participation due to our national concepts of equality, reasoned thinking, deliberation, and orderly processes. A discussion is not a debate, a monologue, or a conversation. It is a cooperative effort in which group members help others study a problem, so there are no winners or losers. It is an interchange with purpose and reason, not a casual conversation. It is systematic in that a steady progression toward a goal takes place. It is creative when people react to opinions and various turns in the discussion. It requires participation through listening and speaking. It calls for leadership so that discussion stays focused, but encourages full expression of viewpoints. Discussion, well-conducted, is a superior way to study a problem.

Discussion calls for reflective thinking - weighing pros and cons, considering alternatives, using logic, considering consequences of possible actions. Groups try to understand the problem and act with a common purpose in solving it. When understanding is the object, participants correct others' thinking or information errors, and all understand that this is for the common good of dealing with the problem.

Problem-solving answers the question "How." In problem-solving discussions, groups seek answers to conflicts or problems facing them. They discuss facts relevant to stated problems and discuss pros and cons of various solutions. Problem-solving discussions truly benefit from many points of view, so fostering a free exchange of ideas is vital. Groups seek ways to correct bad situations, improve current situations, or resolve conflicts between situations or people through discussion. This allows all to hear what others see as workable solutions to problems, PLUS the probable consequences of solutions.

Problem-Solving Meeting Objective

Since the idea here is to get opinions and ideas from others, the meeting objective must reflect this. Meeting objectives start with an infinitive - to do something: to create ways to solve a problem, to gather ideas on an issue, to brainstorm on the impact of decisions already made - a definite "doing" activity. Don't choose wimpy statements, such as "to be aware of" or "to become familiar with"! Be as specific as possible, since the objective tells participants the content and the level of detail to expect in the meeting.

To practice creating problem-solving meeting objectives, go back to the topic selected at the start, look at the three main points covered, and select an idea to use for your problem-solving meeting. Examples follow.

  1. Information meeting topic: To inform about effects of smoking on the job

    Key points:
    1. Workplace rules concerning smoking

    2. Time use/ productivity loss of smokers on breaks

    3. Effect on other employees and the organization

    Problem-solving meeting objective: To find ways to equalize time use and work produced between smokers and nonsmokers

  2. Information meeting topic: To inform about depression and recovery

    Key points:
    1. Recognizing depression in yourself and others

    2. Treatments for depression (drugs and therapy)

    3. Putting your life back together (with help)

    Problem-solving meeting objective: To create ways to support depressed people in the workforce

  3. Information meeting topic: To inform about using diet supplements to enhance performance in sports

    Key points:
    1. Type of supplements available

    2. Effect of supplements on sports performance

    3. Side effects and long-term use possibilities

    Problem-solving meeting objective: To find ways to limit the use of dietary supplements in junior- and senior-high athletes

  4. Information meeting topic: To inform about the depletion of old-growth timber through logging on public lands

    Key points:
    1. Benefits of old-growth forests

    2. Effects of logging on public lands

    3. Wood product awareness for consumers

    Problem-solving meeting objective: To create ways to provide lumber without using old-growth timber on public lands

  5. Information meeting topic: To inform about consumer credit card debt

    Key points:
    1. Extent of credit card debt in USA

    2. Reasons for mounting debt

    3. Effect of debt on the American working class

    Problem-solving meeting objective: To create ways to encourage responsible use of credit cards

In thinking about problem-solving meeting objectives, consider what question can be asked that will elicit opinions and ideas from attendees. Don't ask them to repeat back information from the first meeting; ask them an open question - one that requires explanation. If the question has multiple answers that will vary according to the perspective taken, then it's probably a good problem-solving meeting objective.

Leader Role in Problem-Solving Discussion

In general, leaders clarify the meeting objective and decide the structure which follows - ways in which discussion proceeds. However, if groups make suggestions on modifying procedures, leaders can certainly accommodate them. Often groups are content just with being asked. Being consulted by leaders about meeting process increases feelings of commitment to the meeting outcome. Following this, the actual problem-solving discussion takes place. Then, in closing the meeting, leaders ask participants to reach conclusions based on their discussion. Leaders should listen for key ideas and points made during the discussion and RESTATE THESE IN SUMMARY FORM. This calls for skill in leaders, but is quite important in terms of everyone's understanding of group conclusions or recommendations. This is a "big picture" of what transpires in a problem-solving meeting.

The Climate

Discussion leaders are responsible for establishing the correct atmosphere for problem solving. A good climate to establish is one in which respect for persons and opinions is evidenced, and one in which groups cooperate in an open, warm way. Sarcasm, even the kind intended to be humorous, is out of place in this atmosphere, as is anger. The atmosphere must be positive! How to ensure this? Establishing ground rules and having a copy posted at each meeting is one part. Introduce people if they don't know one another. Clarify meeting roles. Be positive yourself, rather than complaining about problems. Be prepared for the meeting in terms of supplies and information.

The Agenda

The most important part of presenting meetings is the agenda! At the start of a meeting, review the agenda, making sure the meeting objective is clear and what the expectations are for the meeting. Agendas don't have to be long and formal. Short lists for simple meetings are fine, but if a meeting is fairly complex, the agenda should reflect this. Agendas should be detailed enough that a leader can use them as an outline for conducting the meeting.

The Rules!

The Discussion

The next concern is the downfall of most meetings. With no planning about how a discussion is conducted, most people allow random exchanges of information and commentary, which consume meeting time and result in no accomplishment of purpose. Without clear procedural directions from leaders, attendees may think, "We're going at this all wrong. I want no part of this!" Then they won't accept any decisions made because the procedure seemed flawed, OR they think their input doesn't really matter and stop participating. With either response, meetings and results are not well considered, and meetings-are-a-waste-of-time thoughts begin to work their way into the organizational culture. People who truly are interested in furthering the goals of the organization become frustrated with process and people. It does make a difference how groups study problems through discussion! Here are some steps to include.

First establish a basis for the discussion. Have a review of an information meeting, make a prepared statement, give highlights of a written report, ask a resource person to establish facts or reasons, or do some activity that brings a picture to the minds of the attendees. Clarify the meeting objective! Examples include, "to solve the problem of..." or, "to deliberate the issue of..." or, "to consider the pros and cons of...."

Then, use one of the following development ideas:

When dividing the whole group into subgroups, provide a list of key questions to answer. Sample questions could ask for:

  1. Relevant facts for this stand

  2. Key reasons for this stand

  3. Probable consequences of the group stand

OR

  1. Essential features affecting the view of this group

  2. Main causes for the problem from the standpoint of this group

  3. Actions which would eliminate the problem

  4. Other problems which might occur if particular actions were taken

Depending on your topic, it is possible to inject a bit of humor in subgroups and their vantage points. If the meeting objective is to discuss problems with a cafeteria in an organization, the subgroup representing the chef and the kitchen staff could wear chef's hats or white coats. Food suppliers for the kitchen could wear delivery hats, while supervisors could wear sheriff's posse hats or white ten-gallon hats (to represent the "good guys"). Dressing the part helps establish connection to the role or vantage point being expressed and adds to the esprit de corps of the groups. Props can also help make a point: having attendees wear earplugs during a discussion of ways to reduce workplace noise is quite effective.

Discussion Formats

Discussion formats used most often in group meetings are: ordinary group technique, brainstorming, and nominal group technique.

ORDINARY GROUP format is most common. It is an effective way to get a full discussion of the issues, since attendees pay attention to the discussion flow and have easy access to "the floor." Issues get full consideration because of the interactional nature of this meeting process. In ordinary group format, the leader chooses a structure for the meeting and leads the whole group to reach consensus. Without firm leadership, however, things can go wrong: discussion can drag on beyond utility, vocal people can dominate the discussion, members can be swayed by social pressure to agree with the majority opinion rather than sticking up for a minority one. As a result, fewer alternatives may be developed, but in a skillfully led meeting, all sides of the picture are represented, participants feel "heard," and the summary of meeting outcomes truly represents the thoughts and feelings of the group. Success of ordinary group format is highly dependent on the leader's skill and ability to get everyone to participate harmoniously.

BRAINSTORMING is a format which encourages the generation of lots of ideas, some of which may be useful. Rules for this format are:

  1. Many ideas should be encouraged.

  2. Diverse ideas should be encouraged ("wild, crazy" ideas are OK).

  3. "Piggybacking" on each other's ideas should be encouraged.

  4. No ideas may be critiqued or criticized.

Participants enjoy brainstorming in small groups (three to five people), but it can also be done in a larger group with a leader (six to ten people). People appreciate being asked for viewpoints and feel a sense of accomplishment in contributing. Brainstorming sometimes doesn't produce a large number of ideas in practice, because people self-censor their ideas or fear others will reject them and so don't offer them in the first place. However, this social pressure to conform to majority opinion occurs far less in small groups than in large ones, such as the ones used in ordinary group format. Especially if groups are cohesive, fledgling ideas emerge and are nourished in this format. Groups that work together over time learn the strengths of each member and encourage better idea creation with good nurturing.

It's important here to write down everything anyone says and not comment on the merits of any suggestion. (No killer phrases, like "That's not going to work," or "People will never do that.") It's also important not to think of implementation of ideas, a how-would-our-organization-do-this approach. The sole purpose of brainstorming is to hatch ideas, never mind how popular or doable these may seem initially. Frequently, wild ideas turn out to offer more to the solution than people originally think. Another caveat in brainstorming (and the other formats as well) is not to stop thinking when a good idea emerges. Linear-thinking persons can usually create one or two good ideas, but they have a tendency to think "problem solved!" after this, content with one or two ideas. This is NOT brainstorming in its finest form!

NOMINAL GROUP TECHNIQUE, developed by Andre Delbecq at University of Wisconsin, is a stylized form of brainstorming. Four stages include:

  1. Statement of the problem followed by participants individually writing down alternative solutions (semi-adhesive notes are good for this);

  2. Participants take turns reporting their ideas while a recorder writes them down or the adhesive notes are grouped according to ideas. This can be done singly or in small groups or in a large group;

  3. A brief discussion clears up ambiguities or misunderstandings;

  4. Participants are asked to select the best ideas represented. This can be done several ways: participants can be asked to distribute, say, 10 points between their choices, or they could be asked to vote for three choices. If no clear outcome prevails, more discussion is held until consensus emerges.

A variant of this is the gallery technique. Individuals' written ideas are copied on a chalkboard or large sheets of paper and participants are given stars or stickers with which to select the best ideas. In essence, they circulate among the ideas rather than the ideas circulating among people (although this happens anyway). Persons selected as discussants in one location could interpret ideas for strolling attendees and perhaps create a summary of thoughts or suggestions as a part of the meeting process. In this version, people enjoy circling the meeting room when several "idea locations" are established, engaging in one-on-one discussions or listening to others weighing pros and cons. Leaders should ensure that the ideas are discussed at some point, either just after they are written individually or after they appear on the large lists, so that all understand each suggestion or idea. Selecting the best ideas for further consideration can be done by counting the number of stars or stickers, or having discussants present an overview of comments heard from the strolling participants. In nominal group discussions, people produce a large number of good ideas.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF DISCUSSION TECHNIQUES

Criteria

Ordinary

Brainstorming

Nominal

Number of ideas

low

moderate

high

Quality of ideas

low

moderate

high

Social pressure

high

low

moderate

Time / money costs

moderate

low

low

Potential for inter-personal conflict

high

low

moderate

Feelings of accomplishment

high / low

high

high

Development of "we" feeling

high

high

moderate


Discussion Focus

Keeping attendees focused on meeting objectives is a major task for leaders. To do this, leaders need practice in contributing to discussions themselves, summarizing the contributions of others, and focusing on meeting outcomes.

Leader contributions can make or break meetings! Leaders must decide before-hand how to contribute to a discussion without dominating it. After all, problem-solving meetings are called to gather group input, not to dispense views held by leaders only. Ask yourself whether you'll be the authoritative resource for the group. Who will track comparisons and explanations? Who will serve as group memory? Who will summarize group thinking on issues? If the answer to these questions is you, then you might well be dominating a meeting, not conducting it. Look at this scenario.

Meeting Objective: To Discuss Implementing the New Call Schedule

Trent, a sales supervisor for a AT&T opened a department meeting for employees making sales calls for the company. For the first five minutes Trent gave performance statistics for the preceding week and asked for questions. No one spoke. Trent then launched the topic of the meeting, which was to examine a new way to schedule sales calls, an idea advanced by a vice president of sales. Trent thought a problem-solving meeting would give employees a chance to troubleshoot potential glitches and to react to the new procedure.

Trent started, "You all received the memo from our vice president about the new calling schedule. This is going to change the way we do business. I have some ideas on how we can work into this new system, but I'd like to get your ideas. Anyone care to contribute?" No one spoke. "OK, here's what I think we should do...," and Trent outlined his plan. No discussion ensued after that, so Trent adjourned the meeting.

When Trent's boss asked how the meeting went, Trent said, "My people never have any ideas at meetings. I give them a chance, but I end up doing most of the talking. They just don't care!"

What is Trent doing wrong? The idea of having this meeting is good, the meeting objective is concisely stated, and attendees had a memo as preparation. Trent failed to plan and execute a discussion procedure. One of the discussion development ideas given earlier in this chapter would have worked. For example, Trent could have asked each employee to make an initial response and then ask for exchanges of information and ideas. He could have divided the whole group into sub-groups and asked for five or ten suggestions for implementing the new schedule. He could have asked specific questions concerning key implementation problems, causes for these problems, and actions that would eliminate these problems. He could have used any of the three discussion formats: ordinary group, brainstorming, or nominal group. Although Trent's purpose was to conduct a problem-solving meeting, he actually had an information-giving meeting.

Confronting Issues

One way to ensure participation from participants is to assign them roles in the meeting itself. Giving people specific things to do during a discussion maximizes their involvement and improves the quality of the discussion. Having an attendee present a position paper, asking someone to be the first speaker after your introduction, asking someone to serve as resource person, assigning the responsibility for summarizing periodically and/or recapitulating discussion results at the end, asking others to keep track of time spent, to record meeting transactions, and to greet/seat people as they arrive are all ways to improve discussion structure.

The Meeting Roles chapter delineated four activity roles: Leader, Facilitator, Recorder, and Participant. In leading problem-solving meetings, use at least a Facilitator and Recorder.

Role of the Recorder

A Facilitator's sole purpose is to ensure a smoothly run meeting. Facilitators can do the "heavy lifting" during a meeting. Leaders can ask them to do whatever needs doing, but their customary roles revolve around those in the list below. Good Facilitators are observant, noticing the silents or shys in groups and asking for their opinions or participation. Facilitators should have the moxie to tell authority figures if they are breaking ground rules and when they have a turn in speaking. Among peer groups, Facilitators will call for quiet in a meeting, block dominators from affecting group members, gain cooperation from reluctant participants, and shut down silly behavior. In problem-solving meetings, Facilitators will listen in on group discussions to make sure they are on track with the meeting objective. They can also carry a portable microphone to speakers in the meeting. They can conduct some steps in the meeting if the Leader asks. For example, they can coordinate participation in the gallery technique by keeping people moving, ensuring that all suggestions are included, and asking people to speak up if their voices are too soft for all to hear. Facilitators may be asked their opinions, but since they are supposed to be unbiased, good ones will decline answering.

A caveat here is a caution against acting like a militant constituent when facilitating meetings. None of the foregoing activities needs to be done in an unpleasant or unnecessarily abrupt manner. Smile and use a pleasant voice. Be firm, fair, and consistent in dealing with people.

Role of the Facilitator

  1. Manages the meeting process so that the Leader is free to manage meeting content;

  2. Listens for discussion "drift"; refocuses on meeting purpose;

  3. Deals with disruptive and inappropriate behavior;

  4. Mediates conflicting opinions; does NOT voice own opinions;

  5. Suggests other approaches when one isn't working;

  6. Monitors time spent on agenda items;

  7. Takes directions from Leader

Now, what does a Leader actually do when it comes to contributing to discussions, summarizing the contributions of others, and focusing on meeting outcomes? First, please know that a Leader can't just sit back and let whatever happens happen. The Leader is conducting an ensemble of participants by interacting and being attentive and prepared to participate.

When meeting attendees ask for information or an opinion, Leaders should contribute. The art comes in not contributing too much or too often. The center of attention should be the participants themselves and the intellectual task which lies before them.

Leaders can lend their expertise by

Especially when confronting and clearing up issues, Leaders should offer mini-summaries of the discussion from time to time (or designate someone to do this). After several people have spoken about a problem segment, condense what has been said or indicated by body language or tone of voice. Reflect the emotions described and the content. This has the effect of crystallizing the thought processes, sometimes giving participants common terminology which they can use to further the discussion. To do this:

In doing this, try to find merit in others' ideas, make sure you understand others' main points, and check your understanding by stating their views back to them without implying criticism. Don't interject your own ideas until you have fully understood what others have said.

In summarizing the contributions of others, Leaders must be good listeners and be skilled in helping people express themselves. One way to do both is to ask questions. Here are some questioning techniques:

Focusing meeting outcomes is another task of Leaders in confronting and clearing up issues. Sometimes discussion drifts so gradually, it's hard to recognize. However, a Leader must not only recognize it, but put it back on its intended course or direct it on another path that seems desirable. The Facilitator can assist in detecting meeting drift also. Both must keep in mind the meeting objective and the point of the discussion.

Leaders can connect previous statements or summaries with current ones to direct the meeting toward a specific focus. It's important that Leaders give reasons for refocusing on the original objective or emphasizing a different part of the meeting purpose. This makes logical sense to participants and keeps everyone posted on current deliberations. If a group is "spinning its wheels," repeating the same ideas without advancing the discussion, Leaders can make a negative statement or exclude something that is not adding to the discussion. "We won't consider that aspect of the problem now, but we do have time to talk more about...." In this way, Leaders make spur-of-the-moment decisions based on an overall plan for the meeting and the needs of the attendees.

Encourage lots of ideas and consider differences of opinion as creative opportunities. When you disagree or have another opinion, state it, but once you've made your point, don't harp on it. Don't get vested in your own position, but don't support ideas you can't live with, either. Above all, don't get overly emotional; maintain a sense of calm and reason, even when exchanges become heated.

In guiding meeting focus, Leaders should:

Questions to ask in focusing / refocusing are:

Leaders will ...

Behaviors To Limit

The next items in THE RULES have been discussed in previous sections. The negative behaviors that disrupt meetings are familiar and must be dealt with when they occur in meetings. Some of these behaviors are:

Some of these behaviors can be checked by establishing and enforcing ground rules. Ground rules establish ahead of time what is expected of attendees. If people tend to talk among themselves a lot at meetings, make a ground rule about speaking only when called on by the Leader. If people tend to go on and on and on once they start speaking, limit each speaker to one minute at a time and have the Facilitator keep track of time and silence speakers once the time limit is met. Some people tell "war stories" or recite "pity party" tales ("bitch" sessions) when they meet, so make a ground rule that no problems are brought up for discussion without presenting solutions. Eliminate personal agenda discussions; these occur when a person or persons have a singular viewpoint and keep expressing it over and over in different ways. Once they've been heard, keeping refocusing on the meeting objective itself and stop calling on these people unless they offer new insights. Also, rule out "they" statements in attributing blame. Finally, insist on no killer phrases, belittling remarks, and abrupt subject shifts. Control your meeting through ground rules. A sample follows.

  1. Arrive and start on time.

  2. Be there and be prepared to meet.

  3. Be responsible for following these ground rules.

  4. Stick to the agenda.

  5. Listen to all people respectfully and respond thoughtfully.

  6. No interruptions, side conversations, killer phrases, etc.

  7. No social loafing or silent attendees.

  8. Use appropriate humor selectively.

  9. Work for consensus in making major decisions.

  10. Accept responsibility for meeting roles and duties.

Summarizing the Discussion

Finally, THE RULES call for ending the meeting appropriately. If you have achieved the goals of the meeting or if people run out of energy or interest or if you run out of time, close the meeting. It's better, however, to have your Facilitator track time well enough that you have sufficient time to close the meeting in an unhurried fashion.

Leave time in the agenda for the end phase. A discussion without an appropriate end leaves participants with uncertainty about what they accomplished, plus a feeling of dissatisfaction. Also called closure, ending a meeting or closing discussion calls for a recapitulation of the key points of the discussion. The Recorder can do this, provided the Leader has asked periodically for recording of mini-summaries. Leaders can also ask participants to draw conclusions, and the Leader can summarize as well.

In summarizing, define areas of agreement and disagreement between people or groups and synthesize the major ideas advanced into five alternatives you can take into your next meeting, decision-making.

Synthesizing means looking at everyone's suggestions and deciding which ones represent the major ideas of the participants. If there is a minority opinion, decide how this can be expressed. If there is general disagreement about ideas advanced, consider how to phrase the major outcomes so that the diverging ideas or opinions are clearly included. This is especially important when differing viewpoints from the factions involved in the problem have been considered. For example, customers, employees, and management may have very different ideas about solving a problem common to all. The summary demands that Leaders think on their feet!

In closing a discussion, Leaders should convey a sense of firmness so that attendees know this is the final overview, not a bid to open up more discussion. If interaction occurs at this stage, people lose their focus because they are hearing that the meeting is over. They've closed their mental notebooks and are thinking of their jobs, or what they're having for dinner, or where the nearest bathroom is; they don't want to reopen the discussion.

Another tip is to make the closing quick. Don't take this time to fill the group in on personal perspectives, and so on. Be brief in opening AND closing. A final act can be to ask the participants where they want to go from here - suggested activities for the future, or a to-do statement. Complimenting the group for providing excellent points for discussion is in order. Then, true to your word, close the meeting.

Problem-Solving Meeting Example: Neighborhood Park at Risk

Background

It's springtime, and a neighborhood park in a Midwestern city of 50,000 is having problems. The Parks Superintendent, Al Smith, has informed Park Board members about acts of vandalism: posts and railings are being ripped from bridges, graffiti is being painted on benches, and off-road bikes are ridden over grassy banks, making trails and causing erosion. Local police caught four juveniles shooting paint balls at hikers at the park and discovered three other youths rappelling from the Hundred Foot Bridge over Crow Creek. (Rappelling had been heavily discouraged after a youngster fell, injuring himself seriously two years ago.) Finally, residents of a nearby subdivision are depositing tree limbs and grass clippings near the park entrance, and realtors are using the entrance way to post "FOR SALE" signs.

Al Smith also pointed out a project offer made by a Boy Scout earning his Eagle Scout badge. Andrew Pike asked the Board if he could landscape a parking lot and entryway to a new trail in the park and presented a plan for flowers, plants, and trees.

A problem-solving session is called for! First, consider what the meeting objective should be. Is it to deal with each individual problem or would an overall approach work better? Think about these things: what is the problem, who is responsible for dealing with the problem, what is causing the problem, what actions would eliminate the problem, and what other problems may occur if particular actions are taken. A good meeting objective might read: to create a list of solutions for our neighborhood park problems. Then create an agenda for this problem-solving meeting.

The minutes for the meeting reflected the action discussed. The issue discussion yielded the result that the problem was caused by young people in the park, especially at night, a lack of supervisory "presence," and flagging community support for the park. The Town Board accepted responsibility for pursuing solutions. The brainstorming produced these:

Rappelling from bridge

  • make it unlawful

  • fence entire park

  • use security cameras

  • bridge attendant

  • build climbing wall

Shooting paint balls at hikers

  • community service for guilty

  • forbid hiking on trails

  • patrol hiking areas

  • warning signs for hikers

Destroying bridge railings/posts

  • reinforce posts/railings

  • install steel or concrete p/r

  • put electric charge on rail

  • better lighting

  • volunteer patrols

Biking on hills/causing erosion

  • designate bike paths/trails

  • barriers on eroded areas

  • loose gravel on eroded areas

  • plant flowers & trees in area

  • sprinkler system

Graffiti on benches

  • remove benches

  • build "graffiti wall"

  • night patrols

  • local artists paint benches

  • adopt-a-bench program

Dumping yard wastes

  • increased lighting at entrance

  • guard dogs

  • surveillance cameras

  • recycling/compost area

  • yard waste pickup at homes

Real estate signs

  • tell realtors no signs

  • put up NO SOLICITING signs

  • time limits for advertising

  • realtors sponsor park signs: no biking, etc.

  • realtors sponsor vests for volunteers

 


MEETING AGENDA

Meeting Objective:

To create a list of solutions for our neighborhood park problems

Logistics

Group Members:

Date:

May 10

1. Leader:

Al Smith

Time:

7:00 PM

2. Facilitator:

Messina Alvarez

Location:

Town Hall

3. Recorder:

Frank Corvin

   

4. Attendees:

Town Board members

Meeting called by:

Al Smith

Phone:

765.000.000

Agenda Item

Process

Time

Person Responsible

1. Opening

  • Meeting roles

  • Process overview

Lecture

2 min.

Al Smith (AS)

Messina Alvarez

2. Overview of problems

  • Shooting hikers with paint balls

  • Rappelling on bridge

  • Destroying bridge rails & posts

  • Bikes making trails

  • Graffiti on benches

  • Yard waste at entrance

  • Real estate ad signs

Blackboard

1 min.

AS & Frank Corvin

3. Discussion of issues

  • Problem causes?

  • Whose responsibility?

Ordinary group

5 min.

AS, MA, FC & Town Board

4. Listing solutions

Ordinary group brainstorming

10 min.

(Same)

5. Selecting best solutions (at least five)

Ordinary group

5 min.

(Same)

6. Discussion of impact

Ordinary group

3 min.

(Same)

7. Summary of meeting actions

Interactive lecture

1 min.

AS

8. Setting decision-making meeting date & closing

Interaction

1 min.

AS & Board


After the brainstorming portion of the meeting, Frank Corvin noted that some solutions were positive and some were negative. He suggested that unrealistic solutions, such as putting an electric charge on bridge rails be eliminated and that solutions which were positive and involved community effort to accomplish be used in the final list of solutions. The final list:

  1. A call for public participation
    • Adopt-a-spot program for bridge, trails, and benches

    • Form a citizens' watch program with volunteers from all age groups

  2. Facilities improvement
    • Increase lighting in park

    • Designate bike trails and construct barriers for bikes on eroded areas

    • Sponsor bench-painting contest with local artists or school children

    • Establish a park curfew / closing time; police patrol at night

  3. Community services cooperation
    • Police patrol outside park perimeter for paint ball shooters

    • Community service for juvenile offenders - park maintenance

    • Realtors sponsor vests to identify volunteers on duty

    • Enact ordinance to make bridge rappelling illegal

    • Encourage service organizations (Lions, Kiwanas, church groups) to sponsor more youth activities in the community

    • Yard waste pick up in subdivision

During the discussion of impact of these solutions, the participants voiced their satisfaction with a positive approach to problems. Since budget concerns were an issue, the Board felt effective, but not costly solutions could be found. They discussed encouraging more Boy Scout projects, similar to Andrew Pike's. They realized that involving the community would require their coordinating efforts and more meetings at Town Hall, but they felt they could do that. Finally, they agreed to get information on implementation and meet again to decide which ideas to implement first.

Problem-Solving Meeting Practice: Saving Adolescents

Bad grades, defiant attitudes, odd clothes, withdrawal from school activities, little communication with parents - typical teen behavior or warning signs? After a nine-year study, The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development reported that the nation is neglecting young adolescents to the extent that half of our 19 million+ population may not be able to lead productive lives!

The report, Great Transitions, focused on 10- to 14-year-olds which a 27-member panel of scientists, scholars, and others described as being most in need of guidance and support at a time when parents and society find dealing with them perplexing. Children entering adolescence try to become more independent through new behavior and activities just when parental involvement in school and their influence in young lives decrease. Three-fourths of parents surveyed stated high and medium involvement with their nine-year-olds, while more than half make this claim with 14-year-olds.

Recommendations of the report? Parents need to maintain their involvement with young teens with the help of their employers in creating time to do this. Youth groups need to reach out to adolescents. Schools could better meet the developing needs of this age group, and health professionals should be better attuned in order to treat them. Finally, the media needs to tone down violence, sex, and drug use by emphasizing the downside of these, rather than glamourizing them.

Add to this a contribution from Joseph Califano, Director of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, that details which teens are more or less likely to use drugs.

Teens least likely to use drugs

Teens more likely to use drugs

  They eat dinner with the family at least six days a week. Their families rarely eat dinner together.
  They are concerned about doing well in school. They aren't given a specific curfew.
  They regularly attend worship services with their parents. They don’t attend worship services with their families.
  They feel that drug use is morally wrong. Their parents smoked marijuana and their teens know it.
  They attends schools where there is little or no access to drugs. Their parents assume their kids will experiment with drugs.
  They have friends who neither drink, smoke, nor use drugs. Their parents blame society, the media, and teens' friends for teens' use, not themselves.

Your assignment: Create a meeting agenda, complete with objective, for a problem-solving discussion of these issues. Choose a discussion format, and plan a meeting which should produce a consensus of five specific suggestions for your community. Practice conducting this meeting with a group of friends or persons interested in this topic.

AGENDA FOR PROBLEM-SOLVING MEETING

Meeting Objective:

Logistics

Date:

Time:

Location:

Meeting Members

1. Leader:

2. Attendees:

Meeting called by:

Phone:

Agenda Item

Process

Time

Who's Responsible

       
       


Outline for Problem-Solving Meeting

Opening

Figure out an interesting opening, just as you did earlier. Then reintroduce yourself; remind participants of your topic and why they should be interested in it (What's in it for them?). (30 sec.)

Background

State your objective and outline previous meetings. (1 min.)

Topic Statement

State your problem-solving meeting objective. Then describe the problem thoroughly, giving attendees sufficient information that they can produce viable ideas. (1–2 min.)

Preview

Reveal your plan for conducting the discussion (what format, group designation, time limits for discussion) and what all should do when they finish. (1–2 min.)

Body

Signal small groups to start OR start discussion yourself if you are using the ordinary group technique. If small-group discussion techniques are used, allow time for groups to report the results of their discussions. Visit each group to check progress and understanding and ask for questions.

When allotted time is up, call groups to order and ask them to report/record their suggestions so that total group can hear/see. If using ordinary group technique, ask whole group to come up with suggestions. (Time dependent on topics.)

Connectives

Keep discussion moving, and continually relate what is said back to the problem. Don't let the discussion drag.

Conclusion

Synthesize areas of consensus or disagreement. As participants talk, try to understand what they are suggesting and TELL YOUR RECORDER WHAT TO WRITE. Compose five alternatives for use in the decision-making meeting (with the help of attendees). Repeat the selections and ask for agreement. Adjourn meeting.



PROBLEM-SOLVING MEETING CRITIQUE

LEADER:

OBSERVER:

PTS. POSSIBLE: 45  

PREPARATION:

   
 

Professional appearance

(3) _____

 

Detailed agenda

(3) _____

PRESENTATION:                 

   

OPENING:

Attention-getting opener

(1) _____

Reintroduce self & topic

(1) _____

BACKGROUND:

Previous talk (3 main points)

(1) _____

TOPIC STATEMENT:

Fully describe problem / importance

(5) _____

PREVIEW:

Tell how discussion will be conducted (time limits? groups? overall plan?)  

(3) _____

BODY:

Conduct discussion

 

Encourage participation from all

(1) _____

Keep discussion moving

(1) _____

Summarize viewpoints periodically

(3) _____

Elicit opinions / alternatives from all

(2) _____

Synthesize consensus or disagreement

(3) _____

CONCLUSION:

Ask group for five major alternatives

(3) _____

Memorable close to meeting

(2) _____

PERFORMANCE:

   
 

Enthusiasm / vitality / creativity

(4) _____

 

Use of visual aids

(2) _____

 

Use of Recorder

(1) _____

 

Use of Facilitator

(3) _____

 

Time management (15–20 minutes)

(3) _____

 

TOTAL POINTS EARNED

 

Comments:



OBSERVATION SHEET for Problem-Solving Meeting

PRESENTER:

OBSERVER:

5 - Excellent 4 - Good 3 - Average 2 - Needs work 1 - Poor

PERSONAL PREPARATION

1.

Appropriate business attire

5

4

3

2

1

2.

Voice quality / tone

5

4

3

2

1

3.

Voice audibility

5

4

3

2

1

4.

Confidence displayed

5

4

3

2

1

PRESENTATION PREPARATION

5.

Good organization

5

4

3

2

1

6.

Meaningful topic / key point development

5

4

3

2

1

7.

Attention-getting opening / closing

5

4

3

2

1

8.

Easy-to-follow delivery

5

4

3

2

1

9.

Rehearsed performance

5

4

3

2

1

PROJECTION

10.

Vocal effectiveness (intonation, fillers, pauses)

5

4

3

2

1

11.

Audience interaction / eye contact

5

4

3

2

1

12.

Energy / enthusiasm portrayed

5

4

3

2

1

STRONG POINTS:

WORK ON:



PROBLEM-SOLVING MEETING SELF-CRITIQUE / SINGLE CONFERENCE REPORT

Name:

General Topic:

Problem for group discussion:

Watch your video of the meeting; type your responses on a separate sheet. Discuss these questions; don't just answer yes or no.

1.

After watching your video, comment on the visual impression you give and the nonverbal image you project. (plus and minus)

2.

How clear are you in introducing yourself, reminding people of your previous talk, and establishing the problem imbedded in your topic? What could you have done better?

3.

How did your discussion go? After your instruction, were the participants clear on what they were to do?

4.

Did you keep the discussion moving and relevant to the problem? Did you relate participants' comments back to the problem?

5.

How well did you define and synthesize areas of consensus and/or disagreement?

6.

What do you want to work on next time?



Table of Contents, How To Manage Meetings Resources Page
Previous Section, How To Manage Meetings Next Section, How To Manage Meetings