How do we construct powerful questions? I was reading the white paper ‘The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action’ written by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs. Written in 2003, this paper mentions that questions starting with ‘Which’ are less powerful and so are close ended or Yes/No questions. Who, when and where add some power to questions whereas why, how and what help us construct powerful questions! In all general circumstances this holds good!
A word of caution! Sometimes why, how and what questions can be damaging. Here are two examples.
a) Why do we have unfinished stories?
b) What makes our folks stay on internet messenger all the time?
c) How can we even think about such a bad design?
I hope you got the point! Let me move on.
We do see ups and downs in our projects. It happened in one of my project too. We came across code quality issues reported by customer. The mail from customer reached our project manager. He wanted to have a team meeting. He wanted to figure out the situation and find a solution.
When you put yourself in the shoes of this project manager, which of the following questions will you prefer to ask?
a) Are we satisfied with the quality of code we deliver?
b) When have we been most satisfied with what we deliver? How did we accomplish that?
c) What is it about our way of writing code that you find most satisfying?
d) Why might it be that the feedback on our code quality has had its ups and down?
Or when you want to involve one of your programmers in contributing to this situation, will you choose
1. As a team member how can you write high quality code so that we can meet our goal of delighting our customer?
2. With your experience in writing high quality code, how can we enable our team in writing similar code?
By the way, do you think Jim could have been a better coach? Don’t you think Jim could have asked Sachin the second question and make Sachin understand his true potential?
I am sure you have related these examples to your experience and incidents from your projects. Have you thought about the scope of questions and underlying assumptions? Yes. There is a scope, implicit or explicit in every question. Also, there are underlying assumptions.
Part-3 of this blog post will address these two aspects in detail.
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