A question that has been asked repeatedly after my last post is related to asking the right questions so I thought that instead of responding individually, I would use this week’s blog post to respond to it.
Those that have been through the Decision Making or Change Management training with The Mpower Group may well remember the experiential learning simulation called Lutts and Mipps. In essence, teams are handed lots of answers related to a classic time/distance/speed problem. The only challenge is dealing with Lutts and Mipps instead of miles and hours to put the participants in a different context. In addition, the teams are provided with way more information than they need. The challenge is in identifying that they were given two of the variables and they can easily solve for the third, in a total of about 45 seconds – IF THEY ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS! Invariably, there are many teams who never get to the answer in the allotted time(45 minutes) let alone the “solvable” time which is under a minute. And the ones that fail the most miserably? Glad you asked. It’s always the overly analytical types who start gathering the data and crunching it with all kinds of wild formulae. They are also the ones who insist that we must not have given them all the data that they needed! And this is after we have just finished a module on problem solving thinking!
We have been trained and trained and trained to gather as much data as possible and start crunching all kinds of analyses with that data – without determining the Key Questions we must address to arrive at the answer. And this rush to action is nothing but a fool’s errand. We would be far, far better served to make sure that we take the time at the beginning to make sure that we fully and deeply comprehend the question(s) we are trying to answer. Otherwise, how will you know that you are capturing the right data, the complete data, no extraneous data etc. etc.? Which is really what my two friends Pete (Drucker) and Al (Einstein) were essentially saying. And we have proven time and again to many of our clients that determining the right Key Question(s) is a critical and an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, we have all been conditioned to jump into action and time spent in reflection is often viewed as an unnecessary delay. Ironically, that reflection time and developing the right Key Questions and getting consensus on them is a powerful accelerator. And oh by the way, if you follow a structured methodology to develop the Key Questions, it is also a significant Change Management enabler as it builds tremendous credibility with your most reluctant stakeholders. In addition, it enables you to logically structure your argument and essentially serves as a blueprint for your presentation. Furthermore, you can also employ the technique of a reverse hypothesis to completely disarm your most stringent and die hard resistor(s)e.
I cannot begin to tell you the level of frustration that Lutts and Mipps generates in our workshops (which have included CEOs, EVPs, etc., etc.). This is clearly not an issue that distinguishes between seniority. Most people are pretty dumb founded when they realize that they wasted the entire allotted time when they could have had the answer in 45 seconds – if you invest the 3-4 minutes needed to develop the Key Questions. I wish I could show you some of the bizarre answers we have received from teams. How about your organization? How often does it take the time to make sure that it knows what the Key Questions are? And if not, do you think it should? If you would like to know more about any of the concepts mentioned in this post, give me a jingle.