Scenario: Assumed Rules

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

A participant says – “Wait. My question hasn’t been answered. The rule is that you have to answer the question”

10 thoughts on “Scenario: Assumed Rules

  1. AdamWalz

    Depending on the context and the actual flow of the conversation, part of me wants to hang back to see what happens next. Does the problem presenter try and rephrase or answer the question differently? Does the person seem surprised by this comment or does it break the flow of what’s going on? What seems to be behind this persons request?

    Assuming that intervening makes sense, then I might clarify to 1) try and get this persons question answered by having then restate their question and 2) it may be worth trying to clarify the ground rules. Yes, we want to lead with questions. Yes, we want to try and answer questions posed to us. And yet it’s perfectly OK if the problem presenter or others cannot answer the question posed. The goal of these discussions is using inquiry, curiosity, and group exploration to produce new insights and learning…as long as that ia happening then this would trump strict adherence of ground rules in my book.


  2. paul bana

    This can be a sign of a trouble brewing…
    If the tone and the context suggests an interpersonal conflict is arising I would ask ‘could you repeat what was the question and who is it directed to’.
    Then watch whether my hypothesis about a conflict is true. If true – allow it to escalate for some time and then ask what is the groups experience with handling conflict constructively.

    Alternatively, if there are no signs of a conflict, I would ask the group to restate the 2 ground rules.

  3. Tammy Liu

    Under such situation, I will intervent to clarify the AL rules by asking the team “Can anyone remind us what the ground rules are for Action Learning?”…correct ,statement can be made only in response to a question. I see the intervention an opportunity to align all team member’s understanding of the AL rules and such understanding will improve team performance. After the rules are clarified, I will ask the team “what is the impact on the team if the question posted is not answered?”,… then will continue the session by asking “Who will ask next question?”.

  4. Mark Relova

    I would not intervene right away. It may be a good opportunity to see the quality of team dynamics. There may be different reasons the question was not answered – is it the quality of the question? was it clear who was supposed to answer the question? was the question relevant to the discussion? I would allow the team to interact a little bit more before asking “Team, what is the impact of leaving questions unanswered? What might happen? How will the quality of our discussion and solutions be impacted? What can we do to do better?”

  5. Jbethke

    I agree with Adam, my first response would be to not intervene and see where the group takes the answer. If needed, i would ask “What are the two ground rules for action learning?” I could also see the benefit of asking “What is the impact on the group if we move on to a new question before a previous question is answered?” Then i love following up with “What would the group like to do about this?”

  6. hamishriddell

    I concur with doe of the other responses.. I would wait to see how the group handles this response. If an intervention is needed I would ask “I have observed that some questions are going unanswered… Has anyone else noticed this?” “Whats the impact of this on the group?”

  7. DrBea Post author

    I find many Action Learning teams create rules that don’t exists. The sooner I can break them out of this mindset the better.

    In this situation, I would ask the person ‘creating’ the rule, to tell us what the 2 ground rules are. If they cannot quickly respond – I would open it up for anyone to answer.

    I would follow this with – any other norms we want to define are for the team to determine. Do we want to add any norms? If so, what?

    Happy Coaching

  8. Tsumin Huang

    I would like to wait and see how the team responds to this statement.
    It is also a good timing to clarify “what are the ground rules of Action Learning?” I will ask the team “What will be the impact if some questions are not answered?”Then, ask
    “According to this participant’s feedback, what will we do next?”

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