Monday, November 12, 2012

"How Might We...?"

As you may have read in the local media last week, Council used a somewhat different method to focus discussion and help solve issues surrounding the potential Site Alteration Bylaw.

You see, during the Committee of the Whole on November 5, staff reported on the feedback received about a proposed Site Alteration Bylaw. The report also contained an alternative bylaw.

Instead of the normal method of engaging in debate (and counter-debate) about what is needed and what may not be needed, we used a process to focus the discussion and focus on the problem.

To do that, I used a flip-chart (and several pages) and asked Councillors to offer the “key facts” about the “ambiguous situation” of fill being dumped on agricultural lands. After recording 28 facts, Councillors placed three dots each on the flip chart paper to identify the most important facts. Each Councillor explained the reason for picking that key element.

From those most important facts, Councillors then outlined eight distinct issues that needed to be solved. Finally, the Committee directed staff to take the information, and present staff’s best ideas and recommendations for solving those distinct issues. On November 19, Councillors will evaluate the ideas and likely direct staff to develop and present action plans. (I want to emphasize that the process does not prejudge solution(s); the solution(s) to these issues may or may not require a bylaw(s).)

Council used part of an eight-step creative problem solving process developed by Dr. Min Basadur, Professor Emeritus of Innovation in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University ( Over the last couple of months, Town staff has also used the process to help solve various challenges, like developing ways to increase and improve communication with residents

The three-stage, eight-step process includes:
Stage 1:  Problem Formulation: including problem finding; fact finding; and problem definition. (Council completed this stage regarding “Site Alteration” above.)
Stage 2:  Solution Formulation: including idea finding; and idea evaluation and selection. (Councillors will undertake this portion at our November 19 meeting, regarding “Site Alteration.”)
Stage 3:  Solution Implementation: including action plan; gaining acceptance; and action. This stage recognizes that “Unless the solution is skillfully prepared for implementation, and its implementation skillfully executed, the problem solving will not have been successful.”

Council will continue to use this creative problem solving process to not only deal with this particular issue but to also take steps toward solving several other key challenges and opportunities that face our community.