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Submitted by cwatine on



I have started some O3. Great experience.

I would need some help about one topic : what do I do when people want to use this time to solve a partuliar problem ?

First case : One sales guy comes with a printed excel sheet with price, margins issues and asks me if I could help him on that.

Second case : tech manager. Is in trouble with a very difficult customer and wants me to help him managing this situation.

Third case : financial manager. Has communication problems with production manager and uses this time to try to solve it , using me as a "miror" to help her reflexion.

My points are :
- I don't want the O3 to become just a "working time with the boss"
- I don't want the O3 to go too much over 30 mins

I would be very interested in knowing how you would react to these situations.

Thanks !

bflynn's picture

Short answer - you have to enforce the discipline.

Don't allow your O3s to become working time by cutting off those topics as they come up, except as they pertain to the O3. Schedule a new meeting at a later time for the work.

There are critical situations that have to be responded to. If they're so critical that the direct has to solve them immediately, then delay the O3. It should be unusual to delay. I think sometimes, we get caught up in our jobs so much that we lose context on the really important things.


MattJBeckwith's picture
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Great question. In my environment, I have allowed my O3's to address issues such as the ones in the example. Those sound like coaching opportunities and I have had great success with giving that extra time to my managers in the O3.

Before, they used to "pop in" often, sometimes a couple of times a day, with things that were not critical. Now, my folks usually ask themselves if it's something that can wait for their next O3... usually it is.

Brian, I totally see your point but I struggle with the distinction between the things that pertain to the O3 and the things that don't.

My confession: my O3's are an hour - I'm glad I finally got that off my chest.

cwatine's picture
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[quote]Brian, I totally see your point but I struggle with the distinction between the things that pertain to the O3 and the things that don't.[/quote]

This is my point. It is very difficult to find a clear frontier between what should be addressed and what should not ! When you tell them to see the O3 as a bucket, they will put everything in it!

Maybe this happens just because some working sessions or team meetings are lacking in our schedules ?

But, well, I also have customers, suppliers, bankers to see and a family at home to take care of!

[quote]My confession: my O3's are an hour - I'm glad I finally got that off my chest.[/quote]

I am glad I gave you this opportunity. :wink:

quenfis's picture

Would it be too difficult to schedule time after the O3? If you knew ahead of time that your DR needed some help on a project, could you schedule a half hour after the O3 to discuss and work on this?

I am a bit confussed sometimes on what is O3 acceptable, and what should be pushed out to another conversation. I just do my best to keep it flowing and converstion stimulated.

bflynn's picture

I don't think you can make a clear distinction because its going to be different for every situation. What I think about is whether the work is going to occupy the entire O3 meeting. If so, it needs its own meeting. You're having the O3s for a reason and with a set agenda. This is no different than other meetings that have agendas. If the work is going to hijack the O3, then you park it and make another meeting.

Part of that is how deep you want to go. Given the same issue, you might be able to take 5 minutes in the O3 and give guidance on how to work the issue in a coaching sense. Or, you can roll up your sleeves and slog on for an hour of in depth work. Your call. Remember to keep the monkey where it belongs (see the classic 1974 HBR article, Where's the Monkey for the reference).


quenfis's picture

*Side Note* I keep the toy Barrel of Monkeys on my desk to remind my people where the monkey goes. The last thing I need is a monkey in my office tearing up the furniture.

trandell's picture

IMHO, the O3 should not be used to address a problem or issue that requires discussion. The goal is to get the direct talking about the direct in a larger context than a single issue to continue building and cementing the relationship. Yes, you can argue that the problem is very much about them and it is helping to build the relationship. I argue that using the O3 time for that rather than the intended purpose yields a far lower return on investment.

Keep the conversation focused on the true O3 content by saying something like, "Thanks for bringing this up. Let's finish our O3 and I'll make time this afternoon or right after this to help you." If they know you will make the time to help them, they will calm down. I do this with all my directs and it works. Every now and then my boss does this with me and it works.

Unless this is a TRUE EMERGENCY where people will be fired or the company lost (which has a teency weency probability of actually happening), there is little chance that waiting 30 more minutes to solve a problem that may have existed for several days already is going to make it worse or harm anyone.

If you are in a service business and your direct gets involved with a situation involving a customer or situation they absolutely can not get out of and that runs in to the O3, then you can help them first and re-schedule the O3 for later in the day.

The O3 is SACRED. Never let it be cancelled or co-opted for any reason. Even if the direct does not "get" what the O3 is about, you are actually doing far more good for them by keeping it pure.

frago's picture

I'm going to disagree a bit.
In my O3s, my reports can talk about whatever they want during their time. Whatever they want.
If they want to use the time to solve a problem. Fine.
Over time that may change.
Mark says that the O3 is for the direct to talk about what is important to them.
If this problem is what is important to them, let them talk about it.
Just make sure you get your time too.


cwatine's picture
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Yes, I agree on that.
I don't want to say : "We cannot talk about that because we are in a O3, please only talk about you and how you feel and so on ..." for two reasons.

First : they can talk about anything they want. That is what you said when you presented the O3 context. If now you change things, people will feel you are changing the rules.
Second : some people don't feel at ease speaking about themselves, they prefer doing it through concrete examples.

I think the first O3, we whould accept this kind of things and gently try to change it over time.

Anyway, I will not solve their problem for them. I only want to hear how they will describe it (to know them better) and help them find ways to solve it (not solve it for them)

So a good way I found was to let them start talking about their problems. Then I ask questions about themselves ("Wow, how do you feel about that ?") just to see if it was a way to talk about them.
Then, we can try to find ways to solve that ("Well I don"t think we will solve that right now, but how do you think you can do ? Is there anything I can do to help ? Etc.").

For example :
- If it is a relation problem : I would try to show that it may be solved by my direct by changing her way. "What can you change in the way you deal with the other person ? Okay ! Lets try it and you tell me next time how it worked ?"
- About the sales guy with the spreadsheet : "Do you want us to use this time to solve this or can we see it during the team meeting ?"/"Is it urgent ?"/"What prevents you from doing it yourself ? Do you need more training/autonomy/anything ?"

This is just my way.

trandell's picture

I'm a bit confused. You originally asked for help, starting with the question "what do I do when people want to use this time to solve a partuliar problem?" I took that at face value to mean you do not want to solve problems during an O3. Now you say you want to use the O3 for anything they want, specifically stating that problem solving is a good use of O3 time. So what exactly do you need help on?

cwatine's picture
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Hi Trandell,

I thank you for your help. O3 are a new to me (but management is not) and I thought sharing opinion with more experienced people could help me.

But please accept that asking for help does not mean I need to absolutely agree on everything I get in return. :wink:
If some rules always apply, we also can have different styles.

I am sorry if my writing was not clear enough so it made you think I wanted them "to talk about anything in O3".

What I meant :

- I think I should not be to much "by the book" in the beginning but progressively lead them in the right direction
- some people prefer talking about solving a problem as a way of talking about themselves or their relations with others
- I will not solve their problem myself, I will help them solving it by coaching them throught the process

I hope it is clearer ? Is there anything you find wrong or that you would do different ?

Oh, and your photowork is great.

bflynn's picture

[quote="frago"]I'm going to disagree a bit.
In my O3s, my reports can talk about whatever they want during their time. Whatever they want.
If they want to use the time to solve a problem. Fine.
Over time that may change.[/quote]

Remember that in a classic O3, the direct only controls 1/3 of the time. You get an equal 1/3 and you use 1/3 for some devlopment activity. If you allow them to coopt all the time, then you're not conducting an O3 anymore.

Keep your O3s on schedule. You're doing them for a reason. Having O3s doesn't mean you can't have other meetings with your directs.


frago's picture

Thanks Brian.
Perhaps I was unclear.
When I said that my directs talk about whatever they want during their time, I meant during their 10 mins.
That's why I said, "Just make sure you get your time too." ;-)
You should certainly control the time while not trying to control your direct's part of the content.
Take care,

cwatine's picture
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Depending on the persons, I had sometimes their part expanding up to 20 minutes (so 10 minutes for my part). At this time, after about around 3 weeks of O3, I never had time for the last part (developement, growth, carreer) ...
A question I want to add at the end of the O3 will be : "Is there anything I can to better ?"


Before hearing about O3 I had implemented a tool I had developed my self to meet my directs : it was a monthly one to one meeting. It was one hour long, and structured arround these topics :
- review of performance indicator of the person or the departement she's in charge of
- review of her main projects (3 max) with three parts :
1. What did I do
2. What did I do well/not so well
3. What will I do next month
- other things I did outside of my main projects (with this 1.2.3 format)
- relationships with collegues/management/directs
- Score my Month

So my guys are "used" that we meet and exchange about what is going on. The O3 are just a little bit less formal.

At this time, I think I will keep the Monthly reviews (every week or so, they will replace the O3 of that week).

Any comments about that ?

Mark's picture
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Regarding the initial question-

O3s are for the direct. If they want to talk about a spreadsheet, FINE. The issue that comes up is TIME.

If they come in with a spreadsheet, that's fine. Ask, "is it a 15 minute problem?" IF it is, go. If not, spend some time to understand it, and schedule time later in the day for that. (And frankly, spending time with directs working on work is good enough to miss another having another of your directs go in your place. Meeting delegation, anyone?)

If it fits in the 15 minutes, solve the problem. If this happens every week, wait 4-6 weeks, and share that the meeting wasn't necessarily designed for solving work stuff, and you'd like to hear about other stuff as well.

Think of making small corrections... each will seek its own best level.


cwatine's picture
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Thanks for simplying the problems to the basics : "O3 are for directs" !
It means that if I need to give some feedback or other information that can wait, I have to find a later time to do it.