The Focused Discussion Method … how it works!

Communication Skills CourseDuring our discussion of the Focused Discussion Method, assume that the supervisor or team leader initiates the discussion. All parties to the discussion must clearly understand the precise purpose of the discussion and the importance of achieving that purpose. The purpose and importance should always be stated clearly in the opening of the discussion.

Get commitment and explain how that purpose or rationale will benefit them. Ask the participants if they have any related topics that need to be discussed. Write down your opening purpose statement and a list of the benefits to the other party or team members to stay on track.

Here are the steps:

Step 1 – Open the Discussion and Establish a Clear Purpose
The purpose of our discussion is to develop a schedule that balances the accounts in a manner that equalizes the workload without overloading any one team member.

Step 2 – List the Issues
During this part of the discussion, a number of ideas and issues will be developed and should be captured in writing. Review them for duplication and similarity. Discussions and support from other departments may be required before making a decision. Agree that all of the issues are now on the table and have been captured in writing and get your team to agree.

Step 3 – Discuss Issues and Involve Stakeholders
Explore the four issues that have been agreed upon. Develop a plan to identify and evaluate what can be done about staffing levels and in turn, the other three issues, staff experience, software support and budgeted resources. Once the causes of the problem have been identified and explored, develop a plan to follow through on the ideas and for supporting the people who will implement them. Assign each task to a specific person with a deadline. Involve the stakeholders in the development of the solutions. Encourage them to think of imaginative alternatives and to build on the ideas of others. This “brainstorming” will spark creativity and team members are more committed to ideas they help to develop.

Step 4 – Develop Action Plan and Commit
Develop and agree on a step by step plan to support the team members who will be responsible for implementing the ideas. The working definition of an action plan is who will do what and by when. Everyone must agree on the follow-up actions and time table for monitoring the action plan.

Step 5 – End the Discussion
Review the ideas that were developed; the steps of the action plans, verify the agreements and prepare to move on to the next item. Document action plans, time lines and follow up agreements. Work each issue through the five steps. If you have three (3) issues, go through the process three times. You add clarity to each issue when you work it through the entire process.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Communication Skills, Performance Management

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