Effective Business Communication with Precision Questioning and Answering

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Presented by: Kristin Lamendola

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  • 1.Kristin Lamendola Vervago Effective Business Communication with Society of Women Engineers WE12 November 10, 2011

2. Todays Learning Objectives Use Precision Questioning and Precision Answering to make discussion more efficient Use the Precision Questioning Toolkit to analyze problems from different angles Use Precision Answering to preserve credibility in interactions with executives, senior management and stakeholders. 3. Background for this work Fifteen years of development at Stanford University Observations or interviews with 225 executives 25 longitudinal studies of executives In 2007, 55 formal interviews in 9 industries In-depth study of PQ+A in two global companies Cypress Semiconductor Microsoft - 3 - 4. Four deep trends Information overload Higher levels of complexity Complexity is dynamic Increased time crunch Time The pressure to improve discussion The efficiency of typical business meetings - 4 - 5. Two factors make it difficult to manage complexity and overload in meetings Questions that lack focus Answers that destroy focus - 5 - 6. When answers lack focus Not clear Not crisp Not concise - 6 - 7. Whats going wrong? She asks a precise question What are the unit sales for the urban and suburban segments? He hears a generic question Give me an update. He believes hes helping the discussion by providing valuable context - 7 - 8. Precision Answering solves the problem The basics of PA Answer the question that was asked Start with the core Keep it short The benefits of PA Better focus Greater efficiency - 8 - 9. When questions lack focus Low efficiency No depth - 9 - 10. Whats going wrong? We shouldnt be asking this: What do the lines show us? If the question in our mind is this: At the end of the quarter, what was the rate at which sales were decreasing? Is the rate of decrease slowing down or speeding up? - 10 - 11. Precision Questioning solves the problem The basics of PQ Be precise Get to the heart of the matter The benefits of PQ Greater efficiency Better analysis - 11 - 12. Precision Questioning 13. Drill-down questions fall into seven categories - 13 - 14. The seven categories - 14 - Solid-state device performance requirements are becoming more complex. 15. Write down an issue using one of these formats Use a real issue from your work Write legibly ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 15 - 16. We are now going to the PQ Gym We will use your issue to practice the categories one at a time Like practicing grounders, pop ups, line drives, bunts Real PQ is more fluid than this - 16 - 17. Instructions for two-minute drills Pair up with a partner Decide roles One person presents issue & answers questions Other person asks questions Dont change roles until instructed to These are practice drills for the questioner; this will not be a fluid discussion Answers should be short, honest, and realistic Please wait to begin - 17 - 18. Establish the big picture Presenter starts Show them the written statement Give an overview of your issue (about 30 seconds) Then questioner goes Ask questions that help you understand the big picture (about 60 seconds) Big picture questions are mostly clarifications - 18 - 19. Go/NoGo questions guide energy and focus Setting up a good meeting Who should participate? Goal? How much time? Who should tee up the issue? Shaping the direction once the meeting begins Are we focused on the right thing? Are we asking the right questions? Should we take this off-line? - 19 - 20. Examples of Go/NoGo questions OK Who should attend? Better Who knows more about this, Ellen or Bill? OK What would be the goal of the meeting? Better Is a half-hour enough time to both review the data and figure out the underlying causes of the problem? - 20 - 21. Practice Go/NoGo questions Ask questions that would help them set up a real meeting to discuss this issue ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 21 - 22. Clarification questions sharpen the meaning By clarification we mean clarification of the meaning of words and sentences Three main types of clarification Clarifying slippery words Asking graph questions Asking pivot table questions - 22 - 23. Clarification of slippery words A slippery word means one thing to one person and something different to another person OK What do you mean by complex? Better Complex in what ways? Do you mean complex with respect to number of parts? Complex with respect to number of dependencies? Solid-state device performance requirements are becoming more complex. - 23 - 24. Practice clarifying slippery words Clarify words that might mean something different to the presenter than to you. ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 24 - 25. Clarification through graph questions Draw the graph with questions When did the complexity start to increase? How far have you fallen behind the original projections? Are you losing ground or gaining ground? Solid-state device performance requirements are becoming more complex. - 25 - 26. Clarification through pivot table questions Pivot table questioning Picture the parts Question the parts Examples Show it to me by ___ (gender, age, location). Where has morale been the most difficult to improve? Where has morale been easiest to improve? Improving morale is turning out to be more difficult than we expected. - 26 - 27. Practice graph and pivot table clarification Graph questions Pivot table questions ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 27 - 28. Assumption questions go deep An assumption is something that must be true in order for the statement to be true The difficulty: assumptions are in whats not said Useful tip: phrase your questions this way Are we assuming? Are we assuming? - 28 - 29. Common categories of assumptions Im looking for the solution to the problem of Existence Are we assuming a problem exists? Uniqueness Are we assuming theres only one problem? Measurement Are we assuming we can measure improvement? Value Are we assuming its bad? Time, Constancy Are we assuming the problem isnt changing over time? - 29 - 30. Practice assumption questions Are we assuming...? Are we assuming...? Are we assuming...? ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 30 - 31. BCQs ask for evidence Two main types of BCQs Questions about the validity of the data Questions about the credibility of the sources of information - 31 - 32. BCQ: questions about the validity of data Not How do you know thats true? OK Whats the data say? Better How complete is the data? How accurate is the data? Is the sample representative of the population? Is the sample large enough? - 32 - 33. Practice data questions Ask questions about the validity of their data ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 33 - 34. Establish the big picture New presenter Show your written statement as you give an overview (about 30 seconds) New questioner Ask questions that help you understand the big picture (about 60 seconds) Big picture questions are mostly clarifications - 34 - 35. BCQ: questions about the credibility of sources of information OK Where did you hear this? Better Did you hear it from somebody who was on the project at the beginning? Do you have 100% confidence in what they are telling you? Should you check with other people who were on the project at the beginning? - 35 - 36. Practice source questions Ask questions about the credibility of their sources of information ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 36 - 37. Questions about causes help us control You may have heard about the five whys Why did it happen? What caused that? What caused that? What caused that? What caused that? Here are five precise whys What triggered this (an event)? Is there a root cause (a condition of vulnerability)? What is the mechanism (how does it work)? What are the drivers (pushes)? What are the inhibitors (pulls)? - 37 - 38. Cause questions OK Why were our initial expectations so unrealistic? Better Was the root cause the fact that this was a different type of problem than we have seen in the past? OK Why is it becoming more complex? Better What are the main drivers of complexity? - 38 - 39. Practice cause questions Root cause? Trigger? Drivers? Inhibitors? Mechanism? ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 39 - 40. Questions about effects help us predict When thinking about the future, we tend to oversimplify This 3x3 matrix helps us be more precise Best case Worst case Most likely Short term Medium term Long term - 40 - 41. Effects questions OK How long will it take? Better Worst case, how long will it take? OK What will be the result? Better What will the long-term consequences be? - 41 - 42. Practice effect questions Ask questions like this: Suppose you dont change anything. In the ___ term, whats the ___ case for ___? ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc.] than expected. - 42 - 43. Questions about action Many more options than what should we do about it? What is our strategy? What tactics will we use to enact our strategy? What is our plan for the coming week? Is our goal a root cause fix? Or is it just containment? - 43 - 44. Practice action questions Ask questions like these: Can you do a root-cause fix on this? Should you just try to contain it? ___ is more complex than expected. ___ is taking more ___ [time, resources, etc