October 26, 2011

Seven Questions to Move Things Forward

If a picture is worth a thousand words, some words combine to create very valuable questions, ones that consistently help a group get unstuck and make decisions leading to better results.

While the seven I offer from my facilitation experience may not have the sheen of Peter Drucker's The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, each one has proven invaluable time and time again in helping people accomplish more.
  1. What is it that we believe we are here to do today?
  2. What's holding us back from what we know needs to be done, and how can we eliminate or minimize how it is constraining us?
  3. What are the most important results we need to achieve (for this effort)?
  4. What other perspectives or opinions might enhance our discussions and/or with whom do we need to share what we talked about today?
  5. What is most important for us to discuss, but people might be unwilling or unlikely to bring up?
  6. Where do we have agreement about what needs to be done, and how can we build on that to get in action and move forward?
  7. What is the most significant commitment to act that we can all make with conviction right now?
I generally try to surface participants' responses in a transparent way with each individual sharing his/her own perspective.  In some limited cases though, the only way the answers can comfortably be shared is if the process is anonymous.   In those instances, I distribute index cards and have participants write their responses.  I then verbalize each one to the group.

While doing so gets the content on the table, it doesn't address the fact that people didn't feel comfortable sharing their opinions outright.  So I almost always engage the group in a discussion of that reality by posing an additional question  when the timing seems right:  What would need to change in order for everyone to feel comfortable owning and freely sharing their opinions instead of having to contribute them without attribution?

What other questions have you found really help a group with its work?


Note

If you are looking to enhance your facilitation skills (or know someone who is), I'll be doing another full-day workshop for the American Society of Association Executives in Washington, DC, on December 15.  It's a very hands-on event and we explore facilitation fundamentals, tools and techniques for meetings and discussions, and how to manage common group dynamics situations.  We had 45 folks in July, so a great community of learners gets engaged. Please join us if this event is of interest.

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