Tomorrow the team will be touring a nearby nuclear power plant. What does that have to do with NASA? Nuclear powered rockets? No, not this trip… it’s about asking questions.
Well, yes and no.
Yes, in that benchmarking is an important means to share best practices and to measure how one is performing relative to others. No, in that a typical benchmarking effort typically revolves around one type of question: the fact-finding question.
This trip is about more than that. I believe that to achieve a complete dialogue, one must entertain other types of questions that go beyond fact-finding. One can expand possibilities by entertaining different ways to ask questions that may overcome barriers thrown up when facing direct who/what/when/where/how questions. Here are some suggested alternative types of questions:
The feeling-finding question: Based on “How do you feel about…”, this question may open new channels with people who may not be comfortable talking about the facts.
The flyswatter question: I stole this title from the flyswatter principle from calculus of attacking a problem from both sides. This question bounds the extrema of possible answers through the use of, “What do you like the most/least about…” or “What is the best/worst about…”. From there, one can explore further lines of questioning, such as the next type.
The “Tell me more” question: As the name states, this question is some form of, “Tell me more” “Please elaborate” and other open-ended variations.
Finally, there is the “King for a Day” question: This question attempts to remove all obstacles that may be hindering the free exchange of information and asks questions such as “If you were king for a day,…” or “If time and money were no obstacles,…” or “If you knew you could not fail,…”
In building our list of questions for our tour tomorrow, we checked them against this list. We do have a fair number of fact-finding questions. That is to be expected. However, we do have a good set of complimentary questions spread across the other four types listed above. I’m confident that armed with such a rich list of questions, we will be successful in our benchmarking visit.