This Was A Tough Week

This last week, as President Obama, said, “was a tough week.”

We had the Boston attacks and a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas.

There was plenty of speculation in the news media about what happened with both incidents.  Before we had any of the facts, assumptions were being made about both the attacks and the plant explosion.  We still don’t have the facts but already, within, one week of both, we are coming to conclusions about them.

This is the same thing we do with just about any problem we look at.  We either want to solve it immediately with speculative facts or draw our own set of assumptions to resolve the problem quickly.  We live in a world that’s impatient!  But being impatient doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.

I put a puzzle on our Facebook page, The Spy in the Black Trenchcoat.  This puzzle is used by many, including CALMC,  to help groups with problem identification.  There were a number of facts given and based on those facts, you, either on your own or hopefully by group, should have been able to come up with the solution – which I will give at the end the blog. It may have taken some time, more than some would like, but I have a hunch by taking time and working through the facts you came up with the correct answer.

While this exercise is nothing like the problems we faced this week in Boston or Texas, it does tell us we need to gather the information we do know and use that information to help solve the problem – not use speculation or assumptions.  If we don’t know and use the facts, then how can we be sure we’re actually solving the problem?

Too many times we think we know the answer to a problem without getting all the facts.  Sometimes, we, the facilitators and trainers, will ask groups, “Are you sure that’s happening?”  Groups say they are absolutely sure and we’ll tell them to get more information before the group comes up with a decision.  They come back with the information and more often than not, what they thought was happening wasn’t.  They had been making assumptions.

If you are in a problem-solving group, it is very easy to get caught up in making assumptions instead of having all the facts.  Don’t get caught in that trap.  Stop, go look for the facts and bring them back to the group.  Always check yourselves and simply ask, “are you sure those are the facts?”

The other thing this week taught us, we need each other to solve problems.  We need to listen to each other.  We all bring different perspectives based on our backgrounds, our experiences, our thoughts and our ideas.  We need those ideas to solve the problems of today.

Look how quickly the authorities learned who did the attacks in Boston – it was with the help of ordinary people who brought their perspectives through pictures, their experiences and their observations.  The authorities called on everybody to help solve the problem.  That’s what we should be doing when we problem solve – include everybody.  I hope someday all companies will ask all people for their thoughts and ideas to making safer work environments so people aren’t killed from explosions or other disasters.

The answer to the Spy – the englishman.  Hope you used group process to come to that answer.  Keep watching the CALMC Facebook page for more exercises to practice problem solving and group process.

Also, on our website, at CALMC-On-Demand, we have a new webinar – Working Together on Conflict Resolution.  It’s the first in a series on conflict resolution.  Let us know how you like it and what else you would like to see.


About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
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