Help Your Team Avoid the “Rock Phenomenon”

Posted by Kristin Arnold on September 18, 2018

To prevent the “Rock Phenomenon from occurring in your team, take the time to mutually agree on the problem.  It might not be the most apparent, obvious problem, so go around the table and let everyone weigh in on what they think might be the problem or issue to be solved.  Restate the problem in a number of different ways to learn more about its dimensions and related problems and issues.  You may find that your original idea is not the problem at all!

When you take the time to define the issue, problem or process to be considered, it drives the subsequent thinking and the potential recommendations.

And as you are defining the issue, think about how you are framing that specific problem.  When you frame a situation in terms of potential gain, you will act differently than if you frame it as a potential loss. For example, when you see something as an opportunity or gain, you will be more flexible, adaptable and willing to take greater risks.  Whereas, when you see something as a threat or loss, you will be more aware of the risks and consequences.

In addition to defining and framing the problem, you might want to answer a few other specific questions that might help the team avoid the Rock Phenomenon:

  • Background.  Give the reason(s) for chartering the team.  Share why this is a perceived problem or opportunity and any information that would be useful to the people who must deliver the results.
  • Goal or Deliverable(s). What do you expect the team to do and what changes are expected?  How will you measure success?  What will the measure(s) be?
  • Decision Strategy. Will the team be “empowered” to make the final decision or is this a recommendation?
  • Membership.  Choose your members carefully and share why they have been given this responsibility.  For high-stakes problems, consider using a facilitator to keep the team on track and to provide training as needed.
  • Duration.  Time expands to the amount of time allotted, so share how long you expect the team to work on the project.  Intact work groups are perpetual; task forces, process improvement, and problem-solving teams have a finite lifespan – typically no more than six months or they simply lose steam and wither away.

Now that you have thoroughly addressed the issue, you have set your team up for success!


“A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.”

American inventor Charles Kettering


KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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