Why ask better questions!

I put this challenge out to all my worthy colleagues in the consulting business.
Digging into your client’s problem won’t help clients find solutions that work for them.

To clients who use consultants I say…
When you let your consultants dig endlessly into the problem, they won’t easily get you the solutions you need.

Video ‘challenge’ below:

A Solution Focus Challenge

The solution is in asking better questions.

Four ways to win-win conversations

How many people do you know who wouldn’t understand a win-win conversation if their life depended on it?

What do we mean by win-win? Both parties know how to assert their respective needs. They know that they can never fully align their goals, but try to help themselves while the other party also gets satisfaction. They know that they may not agree on the process of getting there, but want similar outcomes. Their strongest asset is the ability to listen and they don’t see win-win as a feel-good opportunity – they see it as a value building, fairly concrete exercise. They can be as tough as nails and still want the other person to benefit.

It’s reciprocity through enlightened self-interest. They know reciprocity isn’t just a North American place name (there’s 4 of them)!

So, what about the non win-win folks? They simply are trying to tell others what they want, (sometimes, what they don’t want), but without caring much for the other party’s interest. Why? Because people who don’t understand value building reciprocity generally have low self-awareness and think less of the person they are dealing with. They impose their thinking in the hope that compliance will happen. When it doesn’t they assume the other simply isn’t listening (when it’s they who are not listening).

What to do? What are the four ways to win-win?

Here’s a 2-step approach using solution focus that gives you questions to help the non win-win folks move to a better place..

1. Download the win-win PDF and then…

2. View this video

Don’t expect overnight miracles. Patience and showing them you are listening will help move them – and you – closer to win-win!

More about solution focus

For more tips on getting to win-win try my book, Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution

Tips for Solutions Driven Strategic Planning

Want to get more out of strategic planning? Much more!

Want to make it a creative, concrete way to move the organization move forward right away?

How many times have you seen a SWOT analysis tilting to one side because the Threats and Weaknesses outweighed the Strengths and Opportunities? Why do planners, bless them, love to focus on the first two and skip lightly over the latter? Why do teams build their plans on the things they already know are not working?

Let’s not even bother answering those problem focused questions. Instead…

Here’s some of the solutions-driven questions used at the recent AMA Toronto strategic planning session:

What’s already working?

VIDEO: AMA Strategic Planning July 2011

What does the research tell us needs to be different?

What are the 5-6 most useful questions we need to answer in the planning work?

Suppose be made progress in the next three years, what would be better?

What outcomes would our key stakeholders, especially the various member groups be doing as a result?

How would do we see that be useful to our partners?

Suppose we focused on 5-6 strategic priorities, what would they look like?

Suppose our plan was communicated widely, what people see us doing?

View the outcome of using this approach: (Video)

Want details on using Solution Focus (and a pinch of process) to power up your planning? See page 62 of my book; Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution

4 Customer Reasons why Project Management gets Better with Solution focus

Project planning is no longer an abstract process.

Ujjwal Daga, Alan Kay, Purnendu Nayak, John Nicol and Venkat S. Somasundaram met to talk about how Solution Focus can help Project Planning become even better.

Here’s four outcomes the group came up with:

1. The customer is now more involved

2. The customer is now the arbitrator of value

3. The customer’s perspective is now sought throughout

4. The customer’s unreasonable requests greatly reduce

Here’s the teams solution focus future-perfect view of project management.


Video: The Solution Focus Future Perfect Project Planner

What are your comments, observations and challenges to these possible outcomes?

More about Solution Focus in organizations

Everybody’s an expert in change. What’s your experience?

Gregory Bateson said, “Change is happening all the time…our role is to find useful change and amplify it.”

Change management is a growing field. Even individuals are starting to think about personal change plans.

My book, Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution advocates that because change is happening so fast, managers and staff have to stop talking about problems and move to solutions. It’s a productivity issue.

What are your observations about change? What have you personally experienced?

The first two responses will receive a free copy of Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution

Here’s an example of what I have noticed:

One change opportunity is to move beyond the popular notion that 90% of change fails. Sure, but it all depends on what you measure and who’s doing the measuring. Within ‘failure’ there are lessons to be learned. Ask any social media-driven marketer and they will tell you that they are looking to learn fast lessons from failure because it will tell them what to do instead.

So, what have you noticed?

6 questions for the self-reliant customer

Do we know what our customers really want? Today, there’s so many ways to find out, but are we asking the right questions?

One factor to consider in our questions is the self-reliant customer. They can never be fully self-reliant – they do need you. But, consider this…

A strategically driven not-for-profit recently had me facilitate a session on a new programme offering on financial literacy. We invited in a group of self-declared math-deficient learners. We were joined by folks from the field and the major sponsor, a bank.

The questions we asked them were very important, namely,

What are you most pleased about in your math skills?

On a scale of 1-10 where would you place yourself?

Suppose that number was to go up a little, what would you have learned?

How would that be useful to you and your employers, family, etc.?

When you received good training in the past, what did that look like?

Suppose you were getting tutoring on math skills, what would that look like?

Notice, the lack of discussion about the problems they faced.

With rich helpful answers based on their existing self-reliance and – importantly – the gaps that needed to be filled, we sent the learners out to further discuss their needs with the business professionals in the room.  The NFP team was able to immediate engage in asking questions about developing solutions for these ‘customers’. They knew where help was not needed and where it was.

What’s the key point? If we are going to ask people to change their behaviour we have to find out what they want, not what we tell them they need to fix.

Interestingly, as the math learners were about to leave, one of the group asked if they could stay and contribute to the planning session. They did.

Want to know more about this approach? As I say in my book, Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution, ‘It’s about their resources for change’