How to Run Effective Problem-Solving Meetings in Project Management

Uncover Root Causes and Develop Successful Solutions

Should problems occur during a project, the approach to finding and actioning solutions will depend on the size, scope and nature of the problem. However, it is always best to enlist team members to identify the root causes of a problem and identify potential solutions. Doing this will ensure that the problem is analysed from a variety of viewpoints and that all relevant information is gathered.

In this article, we discuss how a project manager can run problem-solving meetings more effectively.

Choosing the Problem-Solving Team

Speed is key to resolving problems when they occur. Good project management practices should ensure that the project manager ascertains all stakeholders who are affected by the problem, and request a meeting immediately that a problem is identified.

Problems that are not tackled quickly often become worse over time. Acting quickly should ensure that the problem is not ignored or neglected. A sense of urgency is created, and this should help the project remain on track and be successful.

Do Not Play the Blame Game

Problem-solving meetings should never be used to appoint blame, but to objectively review the situation and develop an approach to mitigate risk and solve the problem. The project manager should ensure that the purpose of the meeting is clearly laid out, provide an agenda, and set ground rules so the meeting achieves its objectives.

Document the Meeting

It is essential that the meeting is documented and that after the meeting a summery is issued to all participants. This summary should include all ideas that were brainstormed, how they were evaluated, and the solution chosen with an explanation of why.

Understand the Problem

It is crucial that the cause of the problem is fully understood, and not simply the symptoms. This means that people must be allowed to talk openly, and that all relevant data is collected and discussed.

When discussing the causes of the problem, several techniques might be used. These include Apollo Root Cause Analysis, which helps the team understand that there could be several root causes, and that conditions and actions could contribute to the problem.

Encourage Brainstorming

No idea should be shot down as a bad idea. Team members should be encouraged to present ideas openly. The wider the range of perspectives, the more effective the meeting will be and the more likely it is that a successful solution will be found. All potential solutions should be listed for more discussion as the meeting progresses.

Be Patient

Act in haste, repent at leisure. While calling a meeting immediately will create the necessary sense of urgency, a rushed decision in a meeting is often a bad one. Patience will help to ensure that the underlying causes of the problem are understood and that a methodical approach is taken to solution finding. This will help avoid unnecessary mistakes that could make the problem worse or lead to other problems arising from a rushed decision.

Evaluate Possible Solutions

Every solution proposed should be evaluated methodically and with the same rigour. Standard measurements of potential effectiveness, advantages and disadvantages, and effects on other parts of the project and project stakeholders should be considered during the evaluation process.

The team should focus on answering the questions who, what, where, why, when and how, identifying barriers and blocks and methods to tackle them.

In Summary

An effective project management problem-solving meeting helps the project team and other stakeholders to treat the problem objectively and collaborate to develop actionable and effective solutions. By laying down ground rules, encouraging everyone to participate, and ensuring that blame is not apportioned, the project manager facilitates better solution finding and consensus.

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