Questions – What you ask, is what you get..

3D Character and Question Mark

Image by 姒儿喵喵 via Flickr

Continuing on from diagnosis, it is important to understand that a key part of diagnosis is asking questions.

It may sound cliched, but it’s absolutely true and very relevant, that you will only get answers to the questions you ask. Ergo, the completeness and impact of your OD intervention will depend on the quality of your questions. They’re directly proportional!

That’s why I decided to write a post that focuses only on Questions.

As you prepare for the diagnosis dialogs with members of the leadership team, here’s what you need to understand completely: 

The past – The beginning, the legacy.

The present – Current state.

The future – Desired state.

The Whats-

  • What is the present state
  • What was it like in the past
    3D Character and Question Mark
  • What is the future likely to be
  • What is desired
  • What works
  • What should not, must not change
  • What most desperately needs to change
  • What would be nice if it changed
  • What is going on inside
  • What is going on in the outside world
  • What has been tried and has failed
  • What has been tried and has worked well
  • What should not be attempted at all
  • What are the key performance measures of the business. What were the numbers like in the past? What are they today? What is expected in the future? What impact on those numbers is desired as a result of this intervention?

The Why’s

  • Why were we successful in the past
  • Why are we successful today
  • Why will we be successful in the future. Why not.
  • Why is an intervention needed
  • Why now

Additional questions:

  • Who are the key influencers – at each level of the hierarchy, all the way to the bottom of the pyramid
  • How will impact be measured?
  • How soon is the change required?
  • Are there parts of the organization or team that continue to do well or are different from the norm? Are there islands of excellence here? If yes, what is different about them? Why are they different? What can we learn from them and apply to the larger context?
  • What are the causes for being where we are today? Both in terms of the good stuff, and what can be better.

Now here’s the interesting bit. Questions can also be used for more than just gathering information. Questions are very powerful when used to provoke thought. A simple example of a provocative question is “Road tere baap ki hai kya?” (Loosely translated, that means “Does this road belong to your father?”) but of course I use the example in jest. This particular question only provokes a response (And sometimes you need that too!).

Thought provoking questions: 

  • What if you were to start this business afresh today. What would you do differently? How would you structure/design the business model?
  • What if you had to relook at the market in such a manner that what you currently offer as product/services, is only 5% of the marketshare?
  • What would happen if you were to walk away from your bottom 50% customers. How would it impact your business?
  • If we had to double our production, but reduce our costs by 25% how do we do that?
  • If we have to double our marketshare in the next 2 years, what should we be doing?
  • What if we were to do away with the Quality department altogether. How would we restructure the way we manage business then?
  • So what’s wrong with being an aggressive culture that doesn’t focus on people practices?
  • Why should we change?
  • Why can’t we continue the way we are? We’ve certainly done well so far.
Day 242: Questions For Heaven

Image by amanky via Flickr

The objective of this post was to provide an insight into the power of questions, and how you must leverage them as a key tool in your quest to diagnose and design an appropriate OD intervention.

Take it from me. If you haven’t invested at least half a day in building together the set of questions you’re going to ask as part of your diagnosis exercise, you’ve not done a good job.

That’s the level of preparation you require in order to do a deep diagnosis.

Please share some questions that work for you, and leave them as comments. That will add to us all!

Keep reading, keep giving me feedback on how to improve this blog and stay subscribed. I will ensure this series goes on. And there might just be a certificate in it for you ;o)

Aaaah I’m kidding! What the hell would you do with a certificate anyway? That’s the question….

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About gurprrietsiingh

CxO-Level Executive Coach Change consultant. Tai Chi learner Beer Lover Aspirational Parent and Partner Sci Fi reader Mistake Maker Challenger
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5 Responses to Questions – What you ask, is what you get..

  1. Abhishek says:

    Excellent post! A great list of questions.

  2. Neha Gupta says:

    I agree. A question I like to use and it works for me(i guess!) is “What will Success look like?”
    It just helps people visualise what they want and then it helps me rationalise with them wherever required in terms of the plunges one needs to be ready to take,what one needs to give up, and also other factors like time, resources etc.

    • gurprrietsiingh says:

      So glad you left a comment Neha, it opened up another dimension viz. that questions should focus on Visuals, sounds, feeling.

      What will success look like?
      What would you like people to be saying about your organization?
      How would it feel to work in a place like this?

      This kind of questioning covers all the senses and opens up new dimensions.

      Thanks for triggering this!

  3. gyan says:

    Well written Gurprriet. compelling questions, which force a think.

  4. Gautam Ghosh says:

    I know.

    This is like a reference post. Need to visit it before one starts the diagnosis interviews

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