Category: Outcome Based Team Building

Reaching Team Goals Through the Four D Model

Reaching Team Goals Through the Four D Model

With positive thoughts and attitudes, your team can discover new ways of reaching team goals. The team can be free to dream new ambitions and set themselves up for success. After a plan is made, the team can design how to reach that goal and deliver the end result.

Related: Goal Setting Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Discovery

Discovery is about finding what type of processes, organization and skills work for your team. It is also a process of learning to appreciate what has been given to the team and using it to their benefit. Team members often discover some of this information by speaking with other team members and learning about what has worked for the company in the past. This can lead team members to feel more appreciative about their role in the team and what they can do to make meaningful contributions.

Examples:

·         Conversing with other team members about their experiences

·         Asking team leaders what methods have worked in the past

·         Observing your past actions that have been successful

Dream

The dream phase focuses on what would work for the team and the company in the future. This ‘dream session’ can be run in a large group conference or can be done with a few peers. Either way, it should allow everyone to open up about what they want to see from the team and any ideas they may have for improvement. The idea of the ‘dream’ part of this model is to use positive energy to create a vision for the future, while creating goals and accomplishments that will help the team, and the company, reach that point. Dream up the ideal and perfect situation.

Examples:

·         “Would this work in the future?”

·         “What do I want to see happen?”

·         “What would be perfect for the team and the company?”

Design

The design plan is all about how you and the team members plan to reach the goals and dreams that were lined out in the discovery and dream phases. This part of the model focuses on what needs to be done to reach these goals and reach the progress needed. Generally, this part is carried out by a small group of members that concentrate on how to move forward, but it can be done with larger groups as well.  Anyone in this group is encouraged to remember to use positive language and encourage their coworkers to think positive in their work.

Examples:

·         “What do we need to do to make this happen?”

·         “Will things needed to be changed or altered?”

·         “Do we need to introduce a new element?”

Delivery

The delivery phase, sometimes called the destiny phase, is the final stage of the Four D model, and focuses on executing the plans and ideas that were thought out and developed in the previous phases. In this part of the model, team members need to take the necessary actions to progress toward change and positively obtaining the team goals. A plan isn’t worth the paper it is written on if it doesn’t have a dynamic team behind it to carry it out.

Examples:

·         Implement any changes needed

·         Remove elements that no longer work

·         Assign tasks and duties as needed

How to Connect With Your Team Through Interpersonal Communication

Sadly, talking and listening has often been seen as a tool for simply communicating with other people, but not for building connections and networks. This assumption doesn’t recognize the fact that interpersonal communication is a great tool to connect with your team members on a deeper level and form a connection with them. Speaking interpersonally allows both parties to feel more at ease and open up to one another. Just remember to be an active listener and watch your own body language.

See also: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Give Respect and Trust

It is a common courtesy in any conversation to treat the other person respectfully and professionally. By treating their ideas and opinions respectfully and with due consideration, you are showing respect by hearing them out, listening to them, and considering what they have to say with an open mind. When communicating with your team, it is important to build rapport and trust by speaking with each other respectfully and giving each other your full attention. After all, they deserved to be treated with dignity and courtesy for their thoughts and opinions. In addition, give your trust to them and let them know that you feel confident enough to speak with them openly. The motions and feelings we put out into the world will come back to us, so don’t be afraid to speak openly with your team. They will be impressed that you can give respect and trust so freely and appreciate the effort you are trying to make with them.

Be Consistent

Consistency is a key factor that builds interpersonal relationships. Being consistent in what we say and do shows knowledge and reliability because it helps build a familiar base to start from. Your team members will want to communicate with you because you will become a factor they know they can trust and depend on. In addition, ensure that your actions are consistent with what you say – in other words– do what you say you’ll do. If you say you will meet someone after lunch to review a report, ensure that you are there early to greet them. If you volunteered to give a speech at the next work convention, be prepared ahead of time and be ready when the day arrives. Showing you are consistent in turn shows how reliable you are and what an asset you can be for the team. Take a few minutes to reflect back on your actions and note if they have been consistent over time. Are there behaviors you can change? What can you do differently in the future?

Always Keep Your Cool

Keeping our cool in tight or stressful situations can be tough and takes a lot of skill to make it through gracefully. It is perfectly normal to feel embarrassed or hurt when someone does something you don’t like, such as speaking rudely to you or pointing out a mistake you made. Our first instinct is to possibly lash out at them or try to retaliate by hurting them in return. But the key to strong and professional communication is to keep your cool at all times and not let the negative feelings take over. When something happens that may send you over the edge, take a minute to reflect on what was said and what happened. If needed, you should step away for a few moments to compose yourself. Don’t deny the other team member to their opinion, but let them know how you feel and how it affects you. Kinder team members will back track their statements and try to address the problem in less negative terms. If the team member is unwilling to give respect, realize that their opinion may not be worth the fight.

Tips for keeping your cool:

·         Try not to take words personally

·         Stop and reflect what was said, not how it was said

·         Make a note to learn from this experience

·         Ask yourself if the person had reason for what was said – if so, what can you do to change it?

Observing Body Language

Body language can speak volumes between people, even if it does not have words to accompany it. Many times people may say one message, but their body language can say another, meaning they may not be truthful in what they say. By observing and becoming more aware of body language and what it might mean, we can learn to read people more easily and understand some of their body movements. By better understanding their movements, you can be better prepared to communicate with them, while at the same time better understanding the body language you may be conveying to them. Even though there are times that we can send mixed messages, we can try to get our point across using certain behaviors. Our body language affects how we act with others and how we react to them, as well as how they can react to ours.

Building Consensus in a Team

Building Consensus in a Team

Consensus is a point of maximum agreement so action can follow. It is a win-win situation in which everyone in the team feels that he or she has one solution that does not compromise any strong convictions or needs. To reach consensus, team members share ideas, discuss, evaluate, organize, and prioritize ideas, and struggle to reach the best conclusions together.

A good test for consensus is to ask the question “can you support this decision?” If everyone can support it, the team has achieved 100% consensus.

Consensus is not always the best strategy. In some cases, reaching consensus does not result in a better decision or outcome. For example, team members are capable of unanimously agreeing on a completely incorrect solution to a problem. But generally, reaching consensus remains a highly desirable goal.

To make consensus work, the team leader must become skilled at separating the content of the team’s work (the task) from the process (how the team goes about doing the task). But the process should get the most attention.  A facilitative leader helps a team to solve its own problem.  The problem-solving process is as follows:

  1. Identify the problem or goal.
  2. Generate alternative solutions.
  3. Establish objective criteria.
  4. Decide on a solution that best fits the criteria.
  5. Proceed with the solution.
  6. Evaluate the solution.

Everyone involved in the process should understand exactly which step is being worked on at any given point. When team members sense a problem, they are usually reacting to symptoms of the problem. But they are the side effects of the real problem which usually lies below the surface.

Strategies for Setting Team Goals

Strategies for Setting Team Goals

Effective goal setting is essential to the success of a team. Goal setting, however, requires careful strategy and execution. Simply writing down a list of things to do is not goal setting. Goals need to be made on an emotional and intellectual level in order to be achieved successfully.

Related: Goal Setting Outcome Based Team Building

Listening to Emotions

Teams often fail to reach their goals because they ignore the emotional aspect of goal setting. Emotions affect every aspect of a person’s life. They influence health and factor into how well people perform in a team. Feelings towards goals, determine whether or not they are achieved. Feelings of obligation will only motivate someone so far. Goals need to be based on personal vision in order to be effective. Vision statements allow teams to create goals that relate to their convictions and emotions.

  • Recognize team values: Reflect on what the team truly value and how these values will shape the team’s future.
  • Consider team goals: What do you want the team to be like in the future?
  • Write it down: Draft a vision statement, and revisit occasionally to make any necessary adjustments.

Prioritizing

Teams often fail to achieve goals when the number of things they need to do overwhelms them. Goals must be prioritized. It is not possible to concentrate on every goal at once. They should be ranked in order of importance, so that plans can be made accordingly. It is essential to have balanced goals that reflect all areas of life. Personal values and visions should be used to prioritize personal and professional goals.

Re-Gating

Sensory gating is the process that the brain uses to adjust to stimuli. There is a direct connection between the ability to filter out distracting stimuli and performance. Stress, anxiety, and depression can alter the chemistry of the brain and reduce the effectiveness of sensory gating. In order to prevent cognitive issues related to gating, it is important to try re-gating. Gating can be improved by using relaxation techniques that help the mind focus and filter out the distractions. Setting goals require focus and a calm atmosphere. Before setting goals, attempt to use relaxation techniques such as meditation to clear the mind of distractions.

Help Your Team Manage Their Workspace for Better Time Management

Help Your Team Manage Their Workspace for Better Time Management

In order for your team to effectively manage their time and to be productive each day, they must create the appropriate environment. By eliminating clutter, setting up an effective filing system, gathering essential tools, and managing workflow, your team will be well on their way to creating an effective workspace.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Declutter The Workspace

Removing clutter is itself a time-consuming task, but a cluttered workspace significantly impairs the team’s ability to find things, and they will get the time back that they invest – and more! To retrieve materials quickly, the team will need an effective filing system that includes three basic kinds of files:

Working files: Materials used frequently and needed close at hand.

Reference files: Information needed only occasionally.

Archival files: Materials seldom retrieved, but that must be kept. For ease of retrieval, organize files in the simplest way possible. For example, the team could label files with a one or two word tag and arrange the files alphabetically.

Once clutter has been eliminated and other materials have been filed, the effective workspace includes only what is essential: a set of three trays to control the workflow on their desks, standard office supplies, a computer, and a telephone. Everything else, except for what they are working on at the moment, can and should be filed where it can be retrieved as needed.

Managing Workflow

How do you process the mountain of material that collects in your paper and electronic in-baskets? The answer is one piece of paper, one electronic message at a time. Many time management experts agree that the most effective people act on an item the first time it is touched.

Although difficult at first, the practice can become habitual, and is made easier with the four Ds:

DO: If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately.

DELETE: If the material is trash or junk, delete it. Or, if it’s something that you might use later on, file it, and move on.

DEFER: If the task is one that can’t be completed quickly and is not a high priority item, simply defer it.

DELEGATE: If a task is not yours to do, then delegate it.

Remember, to take the S.T.I.N.G. out of feeling overwhelmed about a task, follow these steps:

Select one task to do at a time.

Time yourself using a clock for no more than one hour.

Ignore everything else during that time.

No breaks or interruptions should be permitted.

Give yourself a reward when the time is up.

Dealing with E-mail

Electronic communication can be managed just as easily and as quickly as paper with the four D’s that we just discussed. However, there are some other key ideas that will help your team maximize their e-mail time.

Like other routine tasks (such as returning phone calls, handling paper mail, and checking voice mail), e-mail is best handled in batches at regularly scheduled times of the day.

Ask your e-mail contacts to use specific subject lines, and make sure to use them yourself. This will help you to determine whether your incoming mail is business or personal, urgent or trivial.

Once you know the subject of the message, open and read urgent e-mails, and respond accordingly. Non-urgent e-mails, like jokes, can be read later. Delete advertising-related e-mail that you have no interest in, or which you consider spam.

Use your e-mail system to its fullest potential. Create folders for different topics or projects, or by senders. Most e-mail systems also allow you to create folders and add keywords or categories to messages, which makes information retrieval much easier.

Many e-mail programs allow you to create rules that automatically move messages to the appropriate folder. This can help you follow your e-mail plan.

Finally, don’t forget to delete e-mail from your trash can and junk folder on a regular basis.

Using Calendars

To manage all of the things that they have to do, it’s important that the team organize their reminders into a small number of calendars and lists that can be reviewed regularly. A calendar (paper or electronic) is the obvious place to record meetings, appointments, and due dates.

For people with multiple responsibilities, an annual calendar organized by areas of responsibility (e.g., budget, personnel, schedule, planning, and miscellaneous) may be especially valuable. For each of these areas, one can list the major responsibilities month by month and thereby see at a glance what tasks must be completed in a given month of the year.

Help Your Team to Plan Wisely

Help Your Team to Plan Wisely

The hallmark of successful time management is being consistently productive each day. Many people use a daily plan to motivate themselves. Having a daily plan and committing to it can help your team stay focused on the priorities of that particular day. They are also more likely to get things accomplished if they write down their plans for the day.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Creating a Productivity Journal

Essentially, planning is nothing more than taking a piece of paper and a pen and writing down the tasks and associated steps that the team needs to take throughout the day to ensure that the goal is completed.

To start, get a spiral notebook and label it as the Team Productivity Journal.  Label each page with the day and the date and what needs to be done that particular day. Next, prioritize each task in order of importance. Highlight the top three items and focus on those first. Cross off items as the team completes them. Items that are not completed should be carried over to the next page.

Maximizing the Power of the Team Productivity Journal

By planning the afternoon before, the team will start fresh and focused on the most important tasks for the day. Of course, the team will want to review their list in the morning, but they will have a head start on the day.

The team should keep the productivity journal with them during the day to avoid becoming sidetracked. Crossing off completed tasks will give their subconscious mind a tremendous amount of satisfaction. This will also help to maintain their motivation to complete the remaining items on the action list.

If the team  finds that are moving uncompleted tasks over into the following day, and the day after that, then they need to ask themselves why that task is on the list in the first place and what value it has for the team. If they postpone a task three times, it does not belong on the action list.

The Glass Jar: Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

There is a story about time management that uses a glass jar, rocks, stones, pebbles, sand, and water to illustrate how to plan your day. The glass jar represents the time the team has each day, and each item that goes into it represents an activity with a priority relative to its size.

Rocks: The general idea is to fill the glass jar first with rocks. Plan each day around the most important tasks that will propel the team toward achieving their goals. These represent the team’s  highest priority projects and deadlines with the greatest value, often important, but not urgent tasks that move the team toward their goals.

Pebbles: Next, fill in the space between the rocks with pebbles. These represent tasks that are urgent, and important, but contribute less to important goals. Without proper planning, these tasks are often unexpected, and left unmanaged, can quickly fill the day. Working to reduce these tasks will give the team more time to work toward their goals.

Sand: Now add sand to fill the jar. In other words, schedule urgent, but not important tasks, only after important tasks. These activities are usually routine or maintenance tasks that do not directly contribute to the team goals.

Water: Finally, pour water into your jar. These trivial time-wasters are neither important nor urgent and take you away from working toward high return activities and  goals.

If the team commits to this approach to planning their days, they will see as time goes on that they are able to achieve more in less time. Instead of finishing things in a mad rush to meet deadlines, each day will be organized and become more productive and profitable. They will also notice that they are spending less time on activities that are of little to no value. And because they have a clear vision for dealing with competing priorities, the level of stress in the team will diminish, which will allow them to become even more focused and productive.

Help Your Team Prioritize Their Time

Help Your Team Prioritize Their Time

Time management is about more than just managing time; it is about the team members managing themselves, in relation to time. It is about setting priorities and taking charge. It means changing habits or activities that cause the team to waste time. It means being willing to experiment with different methods and ideas to enable the team to find the best way to make maximum use of time.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto’s Principle, states that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your actions. Across the board, you will find that the 80/20 principle is pretty much right on with most things in your life. For most people, it really comes down to analyzing what you are spending your time on. Are you focusing in on the 20% of activities that produce 80% of the results in your life?

The Urgent/Important Matrix

Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that the team wants to achieve, means spending time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, the team needs to distinguish clearly between what is urgent and what is important:

Important: These are activities that lead to the achievement of team goals and have the greatest impact on the team.

Urgent: These activities demand immediate attention, but are often associated with outside goals rather than the goals of the team.

The Urgent/Important Matrix is a powerful way of organizing tasks based on priorities. Using it helps the team overcome the natural tendency to focus on urgent activities, so that they can have time to focus on what’s truly important.

The Urgent/Important Matrix:

Urgent And Important: Activities in this area relate to dealing with critical issues as they arise and meeting significant commitments. Perform these duties now.

Urgent, But Not Important: These chores do not move you forward toward your own goals. Manage by delaying them, cutting them short, and rejecting requests from others. Postpone these chores.

Not Urgent And Not Important: These trivial interruptions are just a distraction, and should be avoided if possible. However, be careful not to mislabel things like time with family and recreational activities as not important. Avoid these distractions altogether.

Being Assertive

At times, requests from others may be important and need immediate attention. Often, however, these requests conflict with team values and take time away from working toward the team goals. Even if it is something the team would like to do, but simply don’t have the time for, it can be very difficult to say no. One approach in dealing with these types of interruptions is to use a Positive No, which comes in several forms.

Say no, followed by an honest explanation, such as, “I am uncomfortable doing that because…”

Say no and then briefly clarify your reasoning without making excuses. This helps the listener to better understand your position. Example: “I can’t right now because I have another project that is due by 5 pm today.”

Say no, and then give an alternative. Example: “I don’t have time today, but I could schedule it in for tomorrow morning.”

Empathetically repeat the request in your own words, and then say no. Example: “I understand that you need to have this paperwork filed immediately, but I will not be able to file it for you.”

Say yes, give your reasoning for not doing it, and provide an alternative solution. Example: “Yes, I would love to help you by filing this paperwork, but I do not have time until tomorrow morning.”

Provide an assertive refusal and repeat it no matter what the person says. This approach may be most appropriate with aggressive or manipulative people and can be an effective strategy to control your emotions. Example: “I understand how you feel, but I will not [or cannot]…” Remember to stay focused and not become sidetracked into responding to other issues.

Help Your Team Select a Solution

Help Your Team Select a Solution

“After every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul’s indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer.” – William R. Alger

After your team generated solutions for the problem, the next step is to select one or more solutions from the possibilities. The team has to do a final analysis to come up with one or more of the best solutions to the problem. This blog discusses that final analysis, as well as a tool for selecting a solution called Paired Comparison Analysis. It also discusses analyzing potential problems that may arise with a selected solution.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Doing a Final Analysis

For each potential solution, the team must weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages. They need to consider the compatibility with the priorities and values of the team. Consider how much risk the solution involves. Finally, the team must consider the practicality of the solution. The team may find it helpful to create a map for each solution that addresses all of the relevant issues.

Consider the potential results of each solution, both the immediate results and the long-term possibilities.

In the final analysis, the team will refine their short list and keep re-refining it until they determine the most effective solution.

Paired Comparison Analysis

The Paired Comparison Analysis tool is a method of prioritizing a small number of workable solutions. The first step for using this tool is to list all of the possible solutions. Label each potential solution with a letter or number.

Next, compare the solutions in pairs. Decide only between those two which solution is preferable. Assign a number to indicate the strength of the preference for each option. For example, problem solvers could assign a “3” to items they strongly prefer, a “2” to a moderate preference, or a “1” to a mild preference.

This first round continues two at a time until all of the solutions are ranked. Then all the ranks are added together to obtain a priority score for each item. The top score is the preferred solution.

Analyzing Potential Problems

The team must think forward to the solution implementation. They need to ask how, when, who, what, and where in relation to implementing the solution. Does the imagined future state with this problem solution match the desired state developed earlier in the process?

Brainstorm for potential problems related to the solution. Consider how likely potential problems might occur and how serious they are. These potential issues can then be evaluated by the team as needs and wants along with the other criteria for evaluating the solution.

Sometimes this analysis can uncover a potential hardship or opportunity that changes the criteria, problem definition, or other aspects of the problem solving process.

Generating Solutions for Team Problems

Generating Solutions for Team Problems

“There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

It is important to generate as many solutions as possible to the problem before analyzing the solutions or trying to implement them. There are many different methods for generating solutions. This blog begins with some ground rules for brainstorming sessions. Then it presents several idea-generating techniques, including free-association style brainstorming, brainwriting, mind mapping, and Duncker Diagrams. We will also be looking at additional tools and information to consider when generating solutions as part of the creative problem solving process.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Brainstorming Basics

In order to come up with a good idea, the team must come up with many ideas. The first rule of brainstorming is to come up with as many ideas as the team possibly can.

Some of the ideas will not be good. If the team starts analyzing the ideas while they are generating them, the creative process will quickly come to a halt, and they may miss out on some great ideas. Therefore, the second rule for brainstorming sessions is to defer judgment.

Allow creativity and imagination to take over in this phase of the process. The next rule for brainstorming is to come up with the wildest, most imaginative solutions to your problem that the team can. Often the team might not consider a solution because of assumptions or associational constraints. However, sometimes those solutions, even if they do not end up implementing them, can lead them to a successful solution. So along with deferring judgment, allow those ideas that might be considered crazy to flow. One of those crazy ideas might just contain the seeds of the perfect solution.Finally, use early ideas as springboards to other ideas.

Basic brainstorming is a free-association session of coming up with ideas. Use the other team member’s ideas to trigger additional ideas. One member of the team should make a list of all of the ideas.

Brainwriting and Mind Mapping

Brainwriting and Mind Mapping are two additional tools to generate ideas.

Brainwriting is similar to free-association brainstorming, except that it is conducted in silence. This method encourages participants to pay closer attention to the ideas of others and piggyback on those ideas.

Before a brainwriting session, create sheets of paper with a grid of nine squares on each sheet. You will need as many sheets as there are participants in the brainwriting session with one or two extra sheets. Plan to sit the team members in a circle or around a table. Determine how long the session will last, and remind participants that there is no talking. Remind participants of the other rules for brainstorming, especially deferring judgment.

For the session itself, state the problem or challenge to be solved. Each participant fills out three ideas on a brainwriting grid. Then he or she places that brainwriting sheet in the center of the table and selects a new sheet. Before writing additional ideas, the participant reads the three ideas at the top (generated by a different participant). The hope is that these items will suggest additional ideas to the participants. The participants should not write down the same ideas they have written on other sheets. This activity continues until all of the grids are full or the time runs out. At the end of the activity, there should be many ideas to consider and discuss.

Mind mapping is another method of generating ideas on paper, but can be conducted alone.

The problem solver starts by writing one main idea in the center of the paper. Write additional ideas around the sheet of paper, circling the idea and connecting the ideas with lines. This technique allows for representing non-linear relationships between ideas.

Duncker Diagrams

A Duncker diagram generates solutions by creating possible pathways from the present state to the desired state. However, the Duncker diagram also addresses an additional pathway of solving the problem by making it okay not to reach the desired state.

Duncker diagrams can help with refining the problem as well as generating ideas for solutions. The diagram begins with general solutions. Then it suggests functional solutions that give more specifics on what to do. The diagram can also include specific solutions of how to complete each item in the functional solutions.

For example, Michael wanted to address the problem of his job being too stressful. He is responsible for managing up to 1500 work hours per month. He cannot find a way to complete all of his tasks within a desired work week of no more than 45-50 hours per week. He has over 10 years’ experience in public account and is interested in moving into industry. However, he is so busy, that he does not even have time to look for a new job.

The present state and desired state statements are:

  • Present State: Job requires more demands on my time than I am willing to dedicate to a job I do not really care about.
  • Desired State: Work a job I care about with adequate free time to spend with family and pursuing personal interests

The Morphological Matrix

Fritz Zwicky developed a method for general morphological analysis in the 1960s. The method has since been applied to many different fields. It is a method of listing examples of different attributes or issues to an item (or problem), and randomly combining the different examples to form a solution. Depending on the number of issues or attributes identified, there can be quite a large number of possible combinations.

The Morphological Matrix is a grid with several different columns. The problem solvers enter a specific attribute or issue about the item or problem at the top of each column. Then for each column, problem solvers generate a list of examples for that attribute. Once there are many different ideas in the columns, the solutions can be combined strategically or randomly. While some combinations naturally are incompatible, problem solvers should not rule out ideas until they reach the analysis phase of the problem-solving process.

As an example, let’s look at the traffic problems experienced at a new elementary school. The administrative staff of the school has identified the problem statement as: “Get approximately 500 students to class safely, on time, and with no more than a five minute wait for parents and drivers in the neighborhood.” A few sample attributes to this problem are safety, timeliness, pedestrians, and drivers.

This matrix can help identify different considerations of the problem. It can also help formulate comprehensive solutions to complex problems.

The Six Thinking Hats

Dr. Edward de Bono introduced a concept for thinking more effectively in groups in his book, Six Thinking Hats. The premise of this idea is that the brain thinks about things in a number of different ways.

The identified different categories of thought are assigned to a color-coded “hat,” as described below. The hats provide a structured way to think about different aspects of a problem.

  1. White hat – Facts and Information: This hat includes Information collected or identified as missing.
  2. Red Hat – Feelings and Emotion: This hat includes feelings, including gut reactions to ideas or items identified in another area.
  3. Black Hat – Critical Judgment: This hat includes details about obstacles to solving the problem or other negative connotations about an item or idea. Since people are naturally critical, it is important to limit black hat thinking to its appropriate role.
  4. Yellow Hat – Positive Judgment: This hat is the opposite of the black hat. It includes details about the benefits of an idea or issue, or thoughts about favoring an idea. It is still critical thinking and judgment, as opposed to blind optimism.
  5. Green Hat – Alternatives and Learning: This hat concerns ideas about new possibilities and thinking about implications rather than judgments. Green hat thinking covers the full spectrum of creativity.
  6. Blue Hat – The Big Picture: This hat serves as the facilitator of the group thinking process. This hat can be used to set objectives both for the problem solving process and the thinking session itself.

The six thinking hat methodology allows a deliberate focusing during problem solving sessions, with an agreed-upon sequence and time limit to each hat. It ensures that everyone in the team is focused on a particular approach at the same time, rather than having one person reacting emotionally (red hat) while others are being objective (white hat) and still another is wearing the black hat to form critical judgments of ideas.

The green hat is the main thinking hat for generating solutions in the problem solving process. The other hats can be used as a reminder of the rules of productive brainstorming sessions, such as limiting critical judgment (positive and negative – yellow and black hats).

The Blink Method

Malcolm Gladwell popularizes scientific research about the power of the adaptive unconscious in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Gladwell’s premise is that in an age of information overload, our decisions based on limited information are often as good as or better than decisions made with ample critical thinking.

In the examples and research Gladwell presents, experts and average subjects alike are better able and happier with choices made through what he calls “thin-slicing,” or coming to a conclusion with limited information. An example presented is the case in which many experts identify a statue as a fake, when the museum that spent money on the statue did not identify it as such with weeks of research.

Gladwell also presents the cautions of the adaptive unconscious. Our power to make effective decisions by tapping into this power can be corrupted by personal likes and dislikes and stereotypes. Rapid, intuitive judgment can have disastrous consequences, as presented in his example of an innocent man shot on his own doorstep 41 times by New York policemen.

Gladwell summarizes the dilemma between when to tap into our unconscious, and when to use a more critical approach as thus: “On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated – when we have to juggle many different variables – then our unconscious thought process may be superior.”

Analyzing Your Team’s Problem Solving Solutions

Analyzing Your Team’s Problem Solving Solutions

With many different solutions in hand, the problem solvers in your team need to analyze those solutions to determine the effectiveness of each one. This blog helps you consider the criteria or goals for solving the problem, as well as distinguishing between wants and needs. This module also introduces the cost/benefit analysis as a method of analyzing solutions to the problems your team has to solve.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Developing Criteria

Return to the information the team generated when they defined the problem. Consider who, what, when, where, and how that the potential solution should meet to be an effective solution to the problem.

When developing criteria that possible solutions to the problem should meet, also consider the following:

  • Ask questions such as “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “Wouldn’t it be terrible if…” to isolate the necessary outcome of the problem resolution.
  • Think about what the team wants the solution to do or not do.
  • Think about what values should be considered.

Use the answers to these questions as the starting point for team’s goals or problem-solving criteria.

Additionally, the criteria for an effective solution to the problem should consider the following:

  • Timing – Is the problem urgent? What are the consequences for delaying action?
  • Trend – What direction is the problem heading? Is the problem getting worse? Or does the problem have a low degree of concern when considering the future of the circumstances?
  • Impact – Is the problem serious?

It is important to think about what the circumstances will look like after a successful solution has been implemented. Use your imagination to explore the possibilities for identifying goals or criteria related to the problem.

Analyzing Wants and Needs

The creative problem solving process is a fluid process, with some steps overlapping each other. Sometimes, as the process provides additional information, the team needs to go back and refine the problem statement or gather additional information in order to effectively solve the problem.

Wants and needs seem like a fundamental aspect of defining the problem. However, in order to analyze the potential solutions, the wants and needs for the desired state after the problem is solved must be very clear.

Needs are items the potential solution absolutely must meet. If the potential solution does not meet a need requirement, the team can disregard it from further analyzing.

Wants are nice to have items. The team can provide a weight to each item to indicate its importance. For each potential solution, the team can provide a rating for how well the solution addresses the selected want. Multiply the rating by the weight of the want to score the potential solution.

With scores for each item, it is an easy matter for the team to rank the potential solutions in order of preference.

Using Cost/Benefit Analysis

Cost – benefit analysis is a method of assigning a monetary value to the potential benefits of a solution and weighing those against the costs of implementing that solution.

It is important to include ALL of the benefits and costs. This can be tricky, especially with intangible benefits (or costs). Some benefits or costs may be obvious, but others may take a little digging to uncover. For example, imagine you want to replace three employees with a machine that makes stamps. A hidden benefit is that you may be able to use large feed stock instead of individual sheets, saving materials costs. In the same example, you would not only consider the salaries of the employees, but the total cost for those employees, including benefits and overhead.

The value assigned to the costs and benefits must be the same unit, which is why monetary value is suggested. The valuations assigned should represent what the involved parties would actually spend on the benefit or cost. For example, if people are always willing to save five minutes and spend an extra 50 cents on parking closer, they are demonstrating that time is worth more than 10 cents per minute. The considerations should also include the time value of money, or the value of money spent or earned now versus money spent or earned at some future point.