Sometimes I am asked by people looking to create a plan with action steps what is the most effective way in one to two hours to gain as much perspective as possible prior to determining the action plan. In response I tell them to have a dialogue with the project’s team around what is right, wrong, confused and missing? These four questions are a great way to quickly, generally in about 90 minutes, gain greater perspective on the issue at hand so as the action steps that are subsequently determined are better informed, as it is always better to diagnose a situation prior to planning. These four helpful questions are a powerful set of questions used in the perspective phase of both StratOp and LifePlan to gain fuller perspective on an organization, team or individual. When the discussion is led well, and people are encouraged to share openly and candidly, the dialogue around these 4 helpful questions is a goldmine of insight, and a great source of determining what are the ultimate strategies and action initiatives that must be turned into action.
What is right?
We always want to start with what is right. We want to call out what is working well, what is good working order, what is currently producing success and results. What can be celebrated? What should the organization, team or individual feel proud of and confident about?
To keep the conversation around this question focused on identifying the most significant items that are right, also ask the sub-question: what can be optimized? Ultimately in this exercise we want to identify the key items that are right that can be made the best and most effective use of – in other words, what is right that needs to be optimized? A skilled facilitator will guide the team or person to identify what are the most important areas that are right that can be utilized more fully to ensure future success.
The next 3 questions should be discussed as a group, so as to allow those responding to first explain what could be either wrong, confused, or missing, and then dialogue with the group about what is the best category to put each answer under. When this tool is used during a StratOp facilitation with a team, because of varying perspectives what may be ‘wrong’ for one person is simply ‘confused’ for another. Allowing dialogue around these different perspectives leads to greater diagnosing of the most important issues that need to be addressed, and provides the groundwork for ultimate solutions.
What is wrong?
What is wrong can at first blush seem like an overly harsh question. But to gain full perspective we have to have an open and truthful conversation about what is wrong. Every organization, team and individual has areas that are just simply wrong.
To help with this necessary dialogue, the sub-question is “what must be fixed?” This can help open up the dialogue greatly. If the group or person is slow to say what is wrong, I will ask, “what needs to be fixed? You must occasionally realize there are things that need to be fixed. What are they? Why do they need to be fixed?”
What is confused?
When asking what is confused, the sub-question is “what must be clarified?” The broader the range of perspectives in the room, say from different departments or roles, it will become evident that what may be clear for some, is confused for others. Often items in this category are actually “right” but they are not clearly articulated and communicated. Due to growth there now be a greater need for putting more decisions in writing, so as a larger number of people will have a consistent and clear understanding of the underlying issue, thus eliminating things that are confusing.
What is missing?
We often think about the better version of our organization or our own lives. That gap between where we are today, and the preferred picture of the future identifies something that is missing.
- The sub-question to what is missing is “what do we need to add?” We won’t be able to achieve our full potential unless we add these key items that are missing.
- Allowing a team to express their individual answers can often be therapeutic for those expressing their long held views. The individual items dialogued about have caused frustration, confusion or inefficiencies that people wish could be addressed and resolved. The person leading the 4 helpful questions session should either write or type up the answers in such a way as everyone can see what has been discussed and provides the basis for the final part of the 4 helpful questions dialogue.
What are the core issues?
When I am facilitating a StratOp and have led the group through the 4 helpful questions, the final step is to have the team look at the flip charts on the wall (or a shared computer screen) that have recorded their collective responses to these 4 helpful questions. I then hang up a final flip chart with the title “Core Issues”, and ask the group to look across all 4 columns and begin to formulate in their mind what are the top 5 core issues that emerge. I then tell everyone that they can come to the flip charts and can vote for 5 of the responses to help us identify as a group what the core issues are. After everyone has voted, there is a graphical representation of what the collective wisdom of the group is. Not only have the individuals within the group been allowed to express their opinion, they have also increased their individual understanding of each others perspectives, and their collective understanding what the consensus is around the most important core issues they must take action on.
Presenting the core issues
Before discussing the core issues identified by the group, I will often huddle up with the team leader to ensure they can insert their voice in terms of how the core issues will be addressed going forward. Most often, the leader of the team will have realized these same core issues, or quickly comes to see why they have bubbled to the top. Allowing the team leader to insert themselves back into a leadership position at the close of this tool, can allow them to both have heard a robust and truthful dialogue around what is right, wrong, confused, and missing, but also begin to present high level solutions that addresses the consensus of the team.
Questions are powerful. These four questions are particularly helpful in leading to greater insight and breakthrough for you and your team, and are a great first step in planning any project or initiative.
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About the Author
Tom is a Professional EOS Implementer™ and the CEO of Navigate the Journey, a firm that specializes in helping the owners of entrepreneurial companies improve at the company, team and individual leader levels.