Writing things down gives you a communication tool that not only helps eliminate misunderstandings, but also makes it easier to track commitments during the problem-solving project. A written record will save time if you need to retrace steps by shortening the discussions and helping you avoid revisiting a dead-end.
Written records are also useful to bring new members into the group, as often happens in lengthy projects, and to help in preparing presentations and reports. Keep written records throughout the problem-solving effort.
First, you’ll need to document everything you know or find out about the problem itself: the problem definition, the results of any research activities, your root cause analysis and the action plans to solve it. You’ll also need to keep an official record of your team activities to assure that everyone has the same understanding of what was decided and to assure that action items get followed-up. Teams generally should keep written agendas, meeting notes, current and closed action lists and lists of future topics.
Many teams limit their meeting notes to lists of actions that have been assigned during the meeting. That information is certainly appropriate to record, but it’s important to record decisions as well, including decisions not to do something.
For controversial decisions or those that require a lot of discussion, it is often useful to record the reasoning behind the decision. This will help you explain the decision later if necessary, and also avoid wasting time revisiting an issue simply because nobody can remember why you made the original decision.
Jeanne Sawyer is an author, consultant, trainer and coach who helps her clients solve expensive, chronic problems, such as those that cause operational disruptions and cause customers to take their business elsewhere. These tips are excerpted from her book, When Stuff Happens: A Practical Guide to Solving Problems Permanently. Now also an ebook, find out about it and get more free information on problem solving at her web site: http://www.sawyerpartnership.com/ .