When was the last time you were asked a strategic question about your business and you responded by saying “I’ve no idea how we’d achieve that”? Have you ever given this answer to any big question? Probably not, for most people are employed because of their knowledge or skills in an area and giving such a response would be seen as a career limiting move.
The fact that you never give this ‘no idea’ response may arise for one of two reasons. Either the question you are being asked isn’t a stretch question and you know that some form of the current business activities will be sufficient to answer the question. Or, it is a stretch question and you force-fit some current capabilities to deliver a workable answer of some form.
Either way, opportunities will be missed. If you are going to ask a question, then take the effort to make it a good question. And if you are going to answer it then make it a good answer. You’ll notice I used the word good twice when I could have used the word great. I’d love to use the word great but that may put too much pressure on what is inherently a simple activity – our ability to ask questions and get answers.
We are all working hard to meet targets in a tough economy and we may be under the impression that the last thing we should do is to spend time questioning what we are doing. Contrast these two statements:
Just do it.
There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.
The first is of course from Nike, while the second is a quote from Peter Drucker. I’d suggest that the Nike approach most aptly describes the attitude within many businesses, not just in the current environment, but even when things are going well. Movement is progress and progress delivers growth. Very Stalin-esque in nature and even appropriate for the little red books popular during the Chinese cultural revolution.
As an example, do we ever consider what we should stop doing? Now there’s a good question to ask! What things should we stop doing that will release time and resources for us to consider some better things for us to do?
See, it isn’t that hard to come up with a good question. This question (for example) can be asked at any level within the business and can deliver value at any level too. The question is whether you have a culture of questioning what you do, or is your culture more one of delivery and execution?
Peter Drucker was well aware of the issues of good management when he stated that the most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers, but by asking the wrong question. Does your business focus more on the answers than on the question? If so, I have a challenge for you. If you were to ask your business a good question today, what would that question be?
We’ll progress to asking great questions at a later date…