The discipline of composing truly great questions often answers the original question you had and many more.
Steve Jost is a member of our team and absolutely amazing with construction technology. The pace that technology changes means that about 50% of what Steve knows becomes obsolete every 2-3 years. He took apart his first computer at 6 years old! Imagine the pace of learning he has had to maintain for the last 30+ years to keep up.
In 2014 he compiled an 8-step checklist of how he approaches asking questions:
- Form well thought out questions with a hypothesis already formed demonstrating to the other party that an appropriate level of thought, reasoning and analysis has been put into the question.
- Create a bigger context for the question(s) by thinking through them in the context of overall strategy and cross-functional workflow. This allows for “and-then” conversations and demonstrates that a proper level of thought has been put into questions. (Levels of Value Stream)
- Work to frame the questions in the best context the other party can understand. Use analogies to relate the question to something the other party is most familiar with.
- Approach the questioning with a positive attitude. Avoid negativity or having the questioning seem like an interrogation.
- Setup the right timing for the questioning when both parties are in the right frame of mind. At a minimum make sure the other party is in the right frame of mind.
- Ask questions to the right level of detail starting with the bigger picture issues and working to an appropriate level of granularity. (Levels of Value Stream)
- Talk until both parties are fully in sync. (5D Facilitation Process)
- Completely summarize at the end. (Writing to Clarify Thoughts)
- 5 Why Troubleshooting (Wikipedia)
- Please send us a quick email for the full checklist PDF including related learning concepts.
“We want employees to be great independent decision makers, and to only consult their manager when they are unsure of the right decision. The leader’s job at every level is to set clear context so that others have the right information to make generally great decisions.” – https://jobs.netflix.com/culture
In most situations there is a broader context than what you are seeing. Expanding your understanding of that context will allow you to see different solutions and opportunities.