Problematic Problem Presenter

As an Action Learning Coach how would you handle the following situation:

The problem presenter schedules a half hour meeting immediately before the Action Learning session. During this meeting they present their solution to the problem about to be discussed in the Action Learning session.

14 thoughts on “Problematic Problem Presenter

  1. Hemant Sagar

    There is no point discussing the solution of the problem, what has to be discussed is the problem itself: Is it a real problem? Is it important and urgent? Has it been thrashed to death or is it still a real problem?

    Once these points have been clarified there is no need to discuss the problem to find a solution beforehand, which is precisely the goal of the Action Learning Session. Discussing it before will take all the energy out of the Action Learning Session.

  2. Fred N.

    This scenario definitely saps some energy from the process. As the coach, I would find a minute to speak with the problem owner before the action learning session to validate the person’s commitment to being open to reframing the problem and possible solution(s). On the face of it, it does seem like the person already has in his/her head a clear picture of both. If that’s the case, then I would recommend to the problem owner that the action learning group is cancelled.

  3. ChauChyiTai

    I will go check with the sponsor if he still wants the AL session to go as planned since the solution has been presented prior to the session. If he still wants it to go ahead, I would ask him how else he wants it to be done differently from the last solution presented, and what is the key value or expectation he wants to see generated from the AL session and from the team itself? How does he see differently now from the solution standpoint and from the team development standpoint? I would work based on his renewed expectation.

  4. dgodfrey

    I assume the meeting was agreed by the coach and problem presenter. Once the group started to discuss solution to the problem, the coach could have intervened and ask the group to not discuss solutions as this would affect the action learning session.
    The coach should have further discussed with the sponsor and the problem presenter and recommend to cancel this action learning session, also decide if the problem still needs to be addressed and actioned.

  5. William Teo

    I prefer to approach this situation with a “Learner” rather than a “Judger” mindset on the so called “Problematic Problem Presenter.”

    Moving on from the stage; “During this meeting they present their solution to the problem about to be discussed in the Action Learning session……”

    How does the team feel about this?

    What will the impact be on the work of this group?

    How will this affect the quality of our AL session?

    How can we move on from here?

  6. Paula Salomao

    It seams to me like the presenter already has a solution in mind and is trying to show me he/she is not very much open to other opinions.
    I believe AL can be very helpful for the organization as a whole in this situation, because it can help the presenter open his mind.
    I would let him/her talk and would ask him/her how much open he/she is to review the problem, to discuss other views and possibilities and other solutions.
    I would also ask about his/her expectations on the AL session and in which extension he/she believes the group can help him/her review the problem and find the best solution.
    With these questions, I would expect him/her to see that he/she might be with a ready solution in mind and that it would be beneficial if he/she opens his/her mind to think with the group.

  7. jeffo

    I agree with Chau Chyi.
    It is imperative to clarify and re-contract with the client on the outcomes sought as I assume that the original contract is no longer valid.

  8. Colleen Carruthers

    I like Fred’s position around talking to the problem presenter before getting started and finding out how open he/she is to having the problem potentially redefined and then solutoning down the road a bit. If he problem presenter is going to go with the solutions already presented, I might as whether the problem presenter has another complex problem that would be suitable for the session. If I got no commitment to the openness to the problem definition, I’d talk with the sponsor about the validity of not carrying on in the current state. I have coached a team for six months, where the problem owner repeatedly said he was open and yet it was clear he was not and it had quite a demoralizing impact on the team. I wouldn’t ever want to put a team through that again.

  9. Sandra Ullrich

    If a solution now exists as a result of the meeting, then I would question whether the urgent or important problem is still relevant. I would be keen to discuss with the problem presenter whether, during this meeting, there emerged any additional urgent and important problems. I would not cancel the Action learning group but rather I would respond to this changing situation and utilise the opporitnity to work with the group on renewed expectations as stated above by Chau Chyi.

  10. Meera Aggarwal

    I completely agree with Fred N. I would not want this case to become a precedent for future Action Learning sessions, whether it a stand alone session or a longitudinal engagement with the organisation.

  11. Robin LLewellyn

    This might be a quadrant C problem — a solution in search of a problem. IAfter speaking with the problem presenter and getting some clarifying information myself, it might be appropriate to hold the action learning session at least to clarify and specify the nature of the problem.

  12. DrBea Post author

    In general, this situation can be avoid by having a conversation with the sponsor ahead of time so they are clear what to expect.

    Given the situation, the learning questions can be raised:

    (What) I’ve observed, we have a potential solution to this problem presented to this problem. Has anyone else noticed that?
    (So What) What’s the impact on a team when solutions are defined before we have complete clarity on the problem?
    (Now What) As a team – How do we want to proceed?

    Happy Coaching

  13. DGodfrey

    The coach should have further discussions with the sponsor and the problem presenter and discuss the impact on the success of the session as a result of the solution presentation. Further discussion will reveal it the session needs to be cancelled or still go ahead if during this meeting a new problem possibly surfaced.


      I am agree with DGodfrey. As an Al coach, I should have further discusions with the sponsor and the problem presenter. This is very important thing for a team coach.

Leave a Reply