A 15 Minute Solution to Your Complex Problem

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Do you have a complex problem that needs to be solved quickly? Consider using “Reason Meetings.”

I first learned about Reason Meetings in my years as an executive pastor in a large church, and I quickly became a fan of their effectiveness.

Just as the name suggests, a Reason Meeting is held because there is a particular reason; there’s a certain problem that needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed quickly.

It’s comprised of people from different parts of your organization, from different levels within departments. A Reason Meeting can feature a combination of department heads, middle managers, clerical staff and custodians.

They come together, usually on short notice, to brainstorm about a particular issue or problem. It’s a quick, energetic, results-oriented dialogue with a group of people who might never gather again in the same way.

This week a serious challenge landed on my desk, and I realized that we had about 24 hours to come up with a solution. After 30 minutes racking my brain without success, I tried a different approach. I took out a sheet of paper and wrote down the names of the people in our organization who were the most affected by the issue, or who would likely have the greatest interest in seeing it resolved.

I walked through our building, stopped at each of their offices, and said, “Hey something’s come up that I could really use your help with. Can you give me 15 minutes right now?”

We quickly assembled, I laid out the issue, and then watched them perform. The energy was high, the conversation solution-focused, and the pace was brisk. Within 10 minutes there were half a dozen tremendous options on the table.

To maximize their effectiveness bear in mind that Reason Meetings:

  • Work best in “short bursts”; 15 minutes is optimal.
  • Should be used sparingly.
  • Should be used only for brainstorming; not assigning blame or follow-up tasks.

If you’re facing a complex challenge give a Reason Meeting a try. You may find the solution to your challenge is just 15 minutes away.

Do you have other ways of tackling complex issues on a tight timeline?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. Thanks for this, Scott.

    I like this concept in principle. I have a question, though. How do you guard against “groupthink” in meetings like this? I have Jeffrey A. Miller’s book “The Anxious Organization” in mind – and as I type the title of his book I think I have partly answered my own question: in a non-anxious organization the tendency will NOT be toward groupthink. That said, I wonder if you can speak to the real possibility that in calling such a meeting you may be subjecting the reason/problem/issue to an onslaught of ideas borne out of a collective get-er-done impulse instead of sound, reflective reasoning?

    Thanks again,

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful feedback Mark. A couple of quick thoughts; first of all I’d reiterate that these meetings must be used sparingly. I used one today and it was the first I’ve called in several months. These ‘reason meetings’ work best in response to a time-sensitive challenge. In other words, you WANT to tap into the ‘get-er-done’ impluse. I will have always done the process of sound, reflective reasoning before hand. Now I need to know if I’m missing anything. That leads to the second factor, which is that I don’t look to the participants in a ‘reason meeting’ to do anything more than to give me their best, sharpest thinking. Help me see things I’m missing. Help me make the best decision I can. In almost every case I’ve made a better decision than I would have on my own.

    Appreciate the chance to dive deeper on this with you

  3. Excellent, Scott. Thank you for the clarifications.

    I only just noticed that you have a new assignment south of the border – congratulations! Now I really wish I had tried to meet up with you for coffee or a lunch when I was up in Kelowna at the end of May…

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