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Asking Good Questions

Asking Good Questions: In a Minute?

We think asking good questions is the one of the keys to good management. The trouble is, how easy is it to find time to ponder them? This page contains some short cuts to asking powerful questions at work.

This is one of our Manage in a Minute pages. These contain essential tips on fundamental management topics. No fuss or side-tracks, they get straight to the point. Here, in a series of bullet points which can be read in a minute (ish!), are some essential tips on asking good questions.

Asking Good Questions: What Are We Enquiring About, and Why?

Use an appreciative inquiry approach to questions, build on what is already done well. A principle of Appreciative Inquiry is that organisations grow in the direction of their focus of attention. This is influenced by the questions they ask. Such as:

  • What do we appreciate, what is currently working well?
  • What do we want more of?
  • What are our strengths, particularly those that can help address the areas we are questioning?
  • In what direction are the questions we ask taking us?
  • Is that where we want to go?

Getting the right people together can transform how good questions are answered.

Asking Good Questions: Who Needs to be Engaged in this Enquiry?

It’s as important to know who should be involved as it is to determine what you should be inquiring about. Three simple and powerful questions to resolve any issue are:

  • Who knows? – about the situation/opportunity, or who has the information we need to solve it/realise it;
  • Who cares? – that something is done about it;
  • Who can? – do something about the solution.

Asking Good Questions: How Do We Build More Powerful Questions?

Two levels of questions. Firstly, questions to help gather facts and points of view, consisting of:

  • Focus questions – Identify the situation. What happened? How has it affected you? What is your concern?
  • Observation questions – What do you see, or hear? What have you heard about the situation?
  • Analysis questions – What do you think? What are the reasons for…..?
  • Feeling questions – How do you feel about the situation?

The second level of questions digs deeper, encouraging movement to a solution. It consists of:

  • Visioning questions – How would you like it to be?
  • Change questions – How could the situation be changed for it to be as you would like it?
  • Considering the alternatives – What ways can you think of to make this happen?
  • Considering the consequences – How would the first alternative impact on others?
  • Considering the obstacles – What would need to change for the alternative to be done?
  • Personal concerns – What would it take for you to participate in the change?

Asking Good Questions in More Than a Minute?

The quality of the questions we ask can serve us well but it often takes some hard thinking before we get to those that really matter. Time spent thinking about the issues, then asking the right questions, is time well spent.

If you do have the time to read more on this topic, follow the full discussion in our article: Best Management Tools Ever? – A Good Question.

Still pressed for time? Follow this link for the full list of Manage in a Minute pages.

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