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QUESTION CRAFT: Get Ready for the Fork (in the conversation)

Best Practice Workgroup 1: Using Question Craft to Prepare for Conversation Forks

Member story

Workgroup 1 had helped one member prepare their follow-up “Need to Learn” (N2L) and “Hard to Ask” (H2A) questions for a huge management decision.  (He reported that without the first set, he wouldn’t have won control of the decision.)  But the conversation took a fork—and the Workgroup helped him prep for the follow-up.

Member contributors

  • Susan Dineen
  • Pattie Epstein
  • Bryon Johnson
  • Steve Johannsen
  • Bill Mitchell
  • Derrick Van Mell

Three lessons

  • Emotional responses:  The hard questions evoke tough responses.
  • Prepare for the fork:  Big decision can go surprising directions.
  • Decision cycle:  Crafting questions depends on knowing what stage the decision is in.

Three by Three

Emotional responses

  • Tough questions can poke someone’s pride.  Be polite, be firm, be ready.
  • Bring your own conviction to the conversation.  Don’t give in except for a better idea.
  • Emotions are indicators:  a visceral response can mean you’re on the right track.

Prepare for the fork

  • Good conversations can take surprising turns:  Yes, No, New idea.  Listen hard.
  • Yes, you might need H2A questions for each fork.  Or enjoy another meeting.
  • Sometimes the decision is implied by the conversation.  Ask, “Have we decided X?”

Decision cycle

  • Decisions have phases, e.g., Introduction, Information, Exploration, Alternatives, Decision.
  • Big decisions take time:  Gear your H2A questions to the decision phase.
  • Be on your toes:  A decision might go through several phases all of a sudden.

One more thing:  It’s great to have a reputation like, “Susan always asks the tough question.”

Now you’re on your own

  • The Mom Test,” a great short book about hard questions
  • The GMs Index, our 1-screen catalog of tested management questions
  • Our Workgroups, a community that understands the power of questions


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