Critical Initiative Delivery

1 minute read

Three powerful questions every leader should be asking

Sep 30, 2016

Written by: Shawn Sweeney

When I begin working with a new client or team, there’s one thing I listen for to give me an indication of how well the team delivers. The questions, or lack thereof, that the leader asks. To ensure consistent delivery, leaders need to be asking these critical questions on a regular basis:

  • What problem are we trying to solve? This may seem to be the most obvious question, but it’s often the most overlooked. Everyone assumes that the problem or objective is clear. It rarely is. Teams often are addressing symptoms, not root causes. And solving for a symptom is a sure fire way of guaranteeing a problem will arise again. There are multiple ways to get clear on the root cause. I personally like the “five why’s” exercise. No matter your approach, be sure you and your team are clear on the problem that needs to be solved before jumping into action.
  • What are the range of options for how we solve this? All teams are guilty of this, and so are we: we present one great idea or solution and get ready to jump into action. We either don’t take the time to think through a range of options because the solutions seem too obvious, or we rule out options because we think the tradeoffs aren’t acceptable. Take the time to discuss a range of options. The ultimate solution you chose will be stronger as a result.
  • What could go wrong? We like to create project plans that assume “happy path”. Everything happens on time. We won’t encounter any road blocks or speed bumps. Every business partner will hit their commitments. But how often does everything go exactly as planned? Ask your team about what could go wrong, and make sure they have appropriately planned for those scenarios. Otherwise, you can be assured you’ll be explaining to your boss why you missed a critical delivery date.

Because these questions are so critical to success, we’ll spend more time in future blogs diving deeper into each one. Until then, make sure you’re using these powerful questions on a regular basis.