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Find tips to oversee the work of volunteers and practical suggestions to supervise them. Everything from ideas to help you work more efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers happy and productive.

~ July 2007 ~ Topics

STRIDE to Solving Problems


STRIDE to Solving Problems

crisis imageThe group works on a project. All goes well and then the wheels come off the car. There are shifts in perception or a change in the basic agreements. A stalemate happens. The team is dead in the water. Arriving on a trusty steed is a mechanism to tackle this thorny issue when working with volunteer committees or teams. It helps make the break through necessary to solve the problem. STRIDE enters the picture.

bullet S - Begin with the SITUATION as it exists. The current status needs to be identified, including that which is painful. Ask such questions as:

  • What is happening now that we would like to change?
  • Give a tangible example of the problem.
  • What is this situation costing us--$$, productivity, commitment?
  • Who is impacted the most by the impasse?
  • If we can solve this impasse, who benefits the most?
  • Who owns this problem now?
  • Who or what is driving the need to make a change?

bullet T - The TARGET of the change needs to be a clear picture of possibilities. Groups that focus on problems only, never move beyond them. Establishing targets help the group focus on the steps toward change.

  • What will it look like if we fix this?
  • What will be happening with a solution to the problems?
  • Who would be happy and satisfied if this change takes place?
  • How can these individuals be involved in the process of hitting the TARGET?

bullet R - In any impasse in a group there are reasons for the problem. It can be outside influence or internal to the group. RESTRAINING forces are the culprits. It is opposition to change.

  • Determine why the problem continues?
  • Is there a reason that the impasse has not taken care of itself?
  • Do an analysis of the problem, using a standardized format to identify specifically the reasons for the impasse.
  • What is working for and against a breakthrough to solve the problem?

bullet I-Start by IDENTIFYING the ideas or issues that are restraining forward movement to solve the problem.

  • Which of the ideas or issues are significant and fixable (or able to be reduced)?
  • Which ones are most closely tied to this problem?
  • List that which needs to happen to solve the problem. Then list those ideas or issues that are inhibiting the movement forward on solving the problem.
  • Brainstorm what the group can do to reduce the restraining ideas or issues.

bullet D - It is DECISION time. It means full commitment by members of the team. Be mindful that the decision making process is decided early on in the discussions, so there are no surprises.

  • What do members of the group agree to do? Is everyone on board?
  • What do others need to do, in order for us to do what we must?
  • Write a plan of action with timeline and who is responsible for which item.

bullet E - The last order of business is EVALUATION. Establish measures to indicate success. This is accountability and results orientation.

  • List the signs of success.
  • What evidence will tell us when we have broken through the impasse?
  • Make a celebration plan.

This process requires that at all time volunteers and staff on the team operate with integrity, responsibility, commitment, and clear alignment in purpose and tasks.

It is also important to note that in reality this process is rarely linear and that is okay.

Adapted from the work of John J. Scherer, “Stride: The Breakthrough Process.” In The 1986 Annual: Developing Human Resources, J. William Pfeiffer and Leonard Goodstein, University Associates, San Diego, CA 1986

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Secrets of Leadership by Rick Lynch & Sue Vineyard and Best of All: The Quick Reference Guide to Effective Volunteer Involvement by Linda Graff.

Details for Secrets of Leadership Book Details for Best of All Book


Washington State University offers a Volunteer Management Certification Program through the Internet. Individuals around the world can earn a certificate in managing or coordinating volunteers, without leaving home. For more information, visit Volunteer Today's Portal site, Internet Resources. Look for the Washington State University listing. There is a hot link to their Web site.

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This month's author is Nancy Macduff, our managing editor. Email: editor@volunteertoday.com.

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