The GROW model is a problem solving conversational model you can use in group or one-on-one meetings to move through an issue:
G – Goals
R – Reality
O – Options
W – What’s Next?
GROW Model: GOALS
The meeting leader starts the discussion by stating the GOAL, or objective, of the discussion. “We need to identify what’s going on with X and what we want to do about it.” State the GOAL in terms of identifying the problem and looking at alternative solutions. Try not to state the GOAL with an end solution in mind; this defeats the purpose of walking through this particular model. The team is supposed to identify the current problem, options for addressing it, and clarifying next steps.
GROW Model: REALITY
First, let’s look at REALITY. Do not gloss over this part. I repeat, do not gloss over this part.
Many meeting leaders make the mistake of thinking that everyone knows the current REALITY and agrees on it. Not so.
I was a participant in a series of meetings where we had spent weeks coming up with a solution for an entire division of an organization – something that was radically going to change the focus of their money and efforts – just to have someone say at the 11th hour: “I don’t even know why we’ve spent so much time on this. Our employees and clients don’t see this as the main issue. This isn’t the real problem.” And then others started chiming in. It derailed weeks of work. What became apparent was that even though the leadership believed they had agreement on the REALITY or core problem, they did not. They had not even taken the time to truly analyze it. If you have a TQM background, this is just preaching to the choir. But many people in management do not come from TQM and want to jump too quickly into solutions and action. Everything was put on hold for another six months while the team went back to the drawing board.
You will know that you’ve entered the REALITY part of the discussion when you hear “I don’t think this is a problem,” or “That’s not the issue, this is.” Everyone has a different perspective and experience with REALITY so you need to give the team time to figure out their Collective Reality. You may need to go back and get information from your employee base, your clients, or internal customers: what do they see as the problem or what do they want to see happening differently? You must ask the right questions to get to the root problem.
In another example, I was running a series of meetings with a senior leadership team – the president of the organization and her five vice presidents – who had serious ongoing problems with conflict. This was not behind-closed-doors conflict; this was out in the hallways, in front of staff, even in front of clients conflict. Not good. The president wanted to see some changes since she always got dragged in and had to listen to everyone’s version of the event for days afterward. While we were meeting, we were checking on REALITY and two of the five VPs said, “Sure we have conflicts but everyone does. It’s a handful of times a year and we deal with it. Why are we making a major issue out of this?” So right away it was clear that this senior team did not see the REALITY in the same way. Fortunately, the president spoke up and said, “Let’s look at some events in the past six months.” Then she proceeded to iterate the various public conflicts those two specifically had and how it had impacted her, the staff, and some customers. Eventually, the two VPs saw that what they viewed as minor conflicts had major repercussions and they were more willing to talk about changing how they worked together. But without the time spent defining REALITY, we never would have made it that far. Remember, if the team doesn’t agree that there’s a problem, or what the real problem is, they will never make changes.