Here are two very useful tools based on asking powerful questions. You can use both tools to support and help others clarify goals or find solutions, or you can use them to structure your own planning and thinking process.
Both tools are questioning routes, they set out a structured journey based on the power of questions. They will help you think and plan in a positive way. You can use them to help planning, goal setting, and problem solving. They are useful if you’re a project manager, a manager of people, leading a team, running a company, or when you’re dealing with clients or customers.
This was developed as a coaching tool and is now widely used in the business environment. GROW is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options, Way forward – it provides a structured approach to problem solving and planning.
Some people like to add a T – for Topic – as the first stage to ensure that everyone involved is clear what is being discussed.
It is important to follow the stages in the GROW order.
Stage 1. Goal
Ask: What is it you want to achieve? What is your goal?
Remember – a goal should be aspirational and motivating, and it should also be SMART:
Specific – it is clear, not vague
Measurable – you know when it’s been achieved
Attainable – it’s realistic in the sense that it can be attained, and you have the necessary resources
Relevant – it will help you achieve long-term plans, it is in line with your values
Time specific – it has a time limit
Therefore, after the initial goal question, you might ask others such as:
Exactly what will it look like?
When will it be finished?
How much will it cost?
The goal setting comes at this stage, before the Reality section, so that the process is started on a positive note, and you are less likely to be constrained by thinking about the problems of the moment or past failures.
Stage 2. Reality
Ask: Where are you now? What is the current situation?
At this point you should analyse the current situation, exploring those areas that directly impact on or influence the achievement of the goal. What have you already achieved, and what might be holding you back. In simple terms, you need to know where you are now in order to know how to get where you want to be – if your goal is to make a 1000 widgets a day, or make a journey to a specific destination, you need to know the current level of production or the journey’s starting point.
Stage 3. Options
Ask: What options have you got?
At this stage you should identify the options you have for getting to your goal.
A key question at this stage is: what other options are there? The more options you can explore the more chance of success. Brainstorming can be done to produce a list of options.
Analyse the options and chose the one that will most readily get you to your goal.
Ask: What will you do now? What exactly will you do?
At this point you need to plan the way forward – how will you put your chosen option into action, what will you actually do?
Sometimes, as you start to plan you realise that there are aspects of the main goal, or sub-goals, that are not clear, in which case you can use GROW again to clarify.
FIVE QUESTION FRAMEWORK (5QF)
5QF is another framework for tackling problems and challenges, and for moving forward.
It’s a great tool for overcoming ‘blockages’ and helping in situations where no progress is being made towards solving problems. It’s a very positive tool in that it looks at assets – what’s working rather than what’s broken, what you have achieved rather than what you haven’t done.
At the heart of 5QF is a simple set of five questions. The order of the questions is important.
Question 1 – What’s working?
In the vast majority of situations there is something that is working, it’s very rare to have a situation where everything is bad, or broken, or wrong. This question starts the investigation on a positive note, it helps to overcome feelings of ‘I can’t solve this.’
Question 2 – Why is it working?
This question is designed to get deeper into an understanding of what’s right, and it reinforces the positive start. Also, if you know what’s working you can do more of it, and this might help you to find other things that work.
Question 3 – Where do we want to be?
This question seeks to clarify the goal – what do we need to achieve, what will it be like when everything is fixed?
Question 4 – What needs tweaking?
This question moves on from what’s working to look at what is almost working, to look at other things that are already in place or already being done, but which aren’t quite achieving the desired results. In most situations there will be a lot of things that don’t need replacing, they just need adjusting, developing, adapting.
Question 5 – What resources could help?
The last question looks at what else can be bought to bear on the problem – does it need more thought, someone else to give a fresh perspective, more time/money etc? It’s the question that starts to look at what else can be done that is not currently being done.
For more on the Five Question Framework see Kurt Wright, Breaking the Rules: Removing the Obstacles to Effortless High Performance, C P M, 1998.