Do Questions Have Their Own Value?

This week, I can across an interesting difference of opinion. I belong to an advisory council for the deputy ministry of my agency. He uses this forum to gather the pulse of people in the organization, idea bouncing, and pretty much whatever else wants from us. The group’s secretariat, the corporate service person assigned to organize our gatherings and interactions asked for us each to submit 3 questions we had for our boss to be possible used in an upcoming meeting.. We have done similar exercises where we submit a concern or topics we would like to hear more about; but, until now, we haven’t been tasked with asking questions.

A few people in our group replied that they didn’t “get” this exercise and didn’t think that us asking questions was a productive use of the deputy minister’s time. They felt that it is far more productive if he asks questions of us than for us to expect him to take time to think about and develop responses. I find myself having a contrarian opinion. I understand that the deputy minister has an unbearably tight schedule, and I don’t expect the questions that I offered to be necessarily answered; however, I think that the questions that people ask can be just as revealing as the opinions they offer. Moreover, when something is asked as a question, that twist can have a meaningful affect on the conversation. That said, I think there is a natural tendency, to jump to the answer instead of analyzing the inquiry.

This week, I am assisting the delivery of a 3-day workshop on Learning Organization Theory and Practice. During the event, I expect many questions will emerge. I will strive to pay attention to those questions and put some thought into what they mean in addition to pondering their answers.

As always, I am interested in your perspective. If you were on an advisory council for “the chief” of your organization, what do value do you think your questions might provide her?

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3 Responses to Do Questions Have Their Own Value?

  1. Richard Kean says:

    Hi Greg. You have a blog? Too cool…

    You have to remember that the Deputy exists in a vacuum from his respective agency. He is not only geographically displaced from his work force he is also displaced from the realities of the day to day challenges of his work force. He craves feedback from the workforce. I know because he told me so.

    Deputy Ministers exist in the future. They are always looking ahead at developing trends thinking strategically how his work force can best manage it.

    It is wise for his work force to ask him questions as the questions are likely to be impacted by the ‘here and now’. There fore my advice is to phrase a question, to those whom you represent, that would unequivocally represent the biggest challenge they face today. If there was one thing the Deputy Minister could fix for you today what would it be?

    Keep It Simple Stupid.
    You might be surprised by the complexity of the answers.


    • gsjonuk says:

      That’s a well crafted question Mr. Kean. “What do you want me to do about it?” should be standard response by any boss when offered a challenge. I think it also leads to a second question from the boss: “What have you done about it? After all, most organizational challenges are most sustainably addressed at front line, not the C-Executive wing.

  2. Richard Kean says:

    Keep things open ended and non-specific.
    You know that already
    It’s the format that you need to think about
    Avoid e-mail queries – these are proven to be a complete failure…

    My Advice?

    If the Deputy is the sponsor then try to vet A SINGLE question through District Managers down to their staff at their weekly or monthly staff meeting.

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