Tackle issues more effectively [Yes! And Blog #145]

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”


Reflecting Teams aid collaborationUse Reflecting Teams to find better insights and solutions for an issue or opportunity

Imagine you have an issue and want to obtain input from others to broaden your perspective and gain ideas.

If you do this in a typical meeting it can often result in frustration as some people throw in ideas prematurely, others dominate the conversation and the talk spirals in endless circles. If that is your experience, you might find it useful to use the Reflecting Teams tool I describe in this article.

I have experienced Reflecting Teams many times in UK chapter meetings of the Association for the Quality Development of Solution Focused Consulting and Training (see the web site here, http://www.asfct.org/) and have found it to be an excellent tool, both for the person with the issue or opportunity and the team.

How it works

There are a number of variants on the tool I describe here, however, this is the one I have experienced most.

Appoint a moderator

Choose someone who will run the process and moderate the team so that everybody can contribute equally. This is an important role.

Form the team

Assemble the team so that all can see and hear the client clearly. This can be around a table or might be a half circle of chairs facing the client.

There is no ideal number but it needs at least three people and, for reasons of time, probably no more than 12. Six people provides a good balance between time and different perspectives.

With larger numbers you can form a team that participates and the remainder observes.

Explain the issue or opportunity

The “client”, the person with the issue or opportunity, explains what the challenge is, without interruption.

This should be reasonably succinct and no more than 5 minutes. A good template for this (but not a pre requisite) is to use the 5Ws and H:

  • Why is it an issue / opportunity?
  • What is the issue / opportunity?
  • Who is impacted and who are the other stakeholders?
  • When does it occur?
  • Where does it occur?
  • How does it reveal itself, (the “What” might explain this)?

Ask clarifying questions

Individuals ask questions to clarify their understanding of the issue. E.g. they can fish for the 5Ws if the client did not explain them all. Or they might ask, “What will you have if this is resolved?” or “What don’t you know that you wish you knew?” or “What have you tried before to resolve this?”

Look out here for individuals giving blatant solutions, (“This happened to me and here’s what I did”) or more subtlely, solutions disguised as questions, (“Have you thought of doing x?”). A good moderator will stop this quickly.

Team Affirms the Client

Individuals provide the client with positive affirmations. E.g. “I think it is good that you are seeking wider opinion to try to resolve this.” Or “I feel that you are handling this well.” Or “I believe you are creating a more innovative approach to find a longer term solution.”  The client listens and gives appreciation for the affirmation.

Affirmation is one step I struggled with at first, believing that people would find it difficult to affirm the client; I have been proved wrong every time.

Individuals in team give feedback

The moderator asks each person in turn to give feedback to the client. This may be an observation or a potential solution. It should be constructive. Each person offers only one piece of feedback at a time so that the session maintains momentum and one person does not dominate. The client listens and makes notes and does not comment.

Client suggests what they might do next

The client feeds back their thoughts to the team. They might make comment on individual offers, saying which ideas interest them or might explain what they will do next. A tip for the client is to avoid being too complimentary of certain ideas at the expense of others, so that everybody feels their contribution has been worthwhile.

Moderator thanks team and client

The moderator ends the reflection with thanks to all and asks for a volunteer to write up notes. This is usually the client. The sessions can provide valuable learning for all and it is useful to capture this learning.


This is a useful tool for teams, being very efficient and respectful. It is especially good for those who work on separate sites as you can run it over the telephone very easily.

It is also useful for department meetings where individuals have roles with little in common. It provides a rationale for the meeting.

What benefits do you consider you might obtain from such a tool?


Try the tool with your team, other colleagues or maybe even your clients?

Have a great week.


John Brooker I Yes! And. Think Innovatively.

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