A mini-series by Katie Stotter, Strategy Lead
Asking good questions, often, can help you find value, keep things moving, gain alignment, and so much more. Good questions create clarity, challenge assumptions, and allow teams to test the boundaries of a piece of work. In this short series, we share our experience of how to ask the right questions and give you the confidence to be curious and provocative to get results.
5 questions you can ask to help you keep your projects moving forwards
Picture this. You’ve been working on your project for months and months and you’re finally presenting to a team of stakeholders to get alignment on direction, strategy, tactics, and so on. Broadly, you’ve got an agreement in the room. Great! Job done? …Not so much.
Quite often, this high point is also the point at which a lot of projects lose momentum. In a best-case scenario, someone might ask “who will own or action this?”. It’s a reasonable question, and a good one, but it devolves responsibility before you have fully understood the challenges involved in the next stage of the work. While you need to talk about ownership, there are much better questions to ask first that can help you keep things moving.
Question 1: How might we make this happen?
As soon as you have buy in, it’s a great time to think about the actual steps involved in the next stage of the work. Framing this question as a ‘how might we’ encourages us to start from the point of view that it is possible, while lowering the fear that a question such as ‘how should we make this happen’ might elicit. Asking this in the room helps everyone understand the actual scope of the work, and gives everyone a stake in making it happen.
Question 2: What are the barriers to this approach?
Once you’ve got buy-in to the idea and a rough plan of how to make it happen, it’s time to think about the things that might get in your way. What blockers or barriers exist? How might we overcome them now?
Question 3: Who could own this?
Finally, once we’ve considered what needs to be done and what might get in our way, we can consider who might be the right owner. Discussing this after the previous two questions allows everyone in the room to have a good, informed discussion about what needs to happen and who is actually best placed to actually take it forward based on their network, skillset, team and perhaps their time and budget. All of these are good considerations.
These questions alone will help you move projects forward more easily. However, there are two more that I think are particularly helpful when what you’re working on will impact others outside of the room, and to help you understand whether your idea is working:
Question 4: How do we communicate about this?
Projects that involve change frequently run into issues caused by poor communication. Working out early how you will talk about your work can save you a world of pain later. But it’s not just change projects this question is important to. Any time the decisions you make impact others, spending time considering how you want to communicate about them help you create opportunities for contribution, comment, and early flagging of any potential issues.
Question 5: How do we measure whether this is working?
This question doesn’t get asked often enough–it can be unnerving to think that if your idea performs differently than expected that it may also reflect back on you. This is absolutely not how measurement should work. In order to try new things and be innovative, we must be able to reflect on our ideas and projects and consider whether they are working as intended or whether we need to pivot to another approach. This question should help you to build in a reflection point to help you decide whether you want to carry on with what you’re doing, in the way you’re doing it, or whether you could experiment with another approach.
These five questions help keep your projects moving, by asking about actions, barriers, accountability, responsibility, and measurement. If you try them, let us know how it goes!
If you’d like some help to get started, get in touch with us.