Skedsheet Blog

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Getting at the root of the problem.

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banyan-tree-aerial-root

Here’s a simple trick to deal with a large variety of situations by getting to the root of the problem.  It takes practice to know what to look for, but boiled down the basic formula is to ask three questions and care about the answers enough to dig in for more.

  1. What are you doing?
  2. What’s good about that?
  3. What’s not?

Here’s an example of how that conversation would go when you’re talking to an employee:

Q: Did you have any interesting calls last week?
A: Yup….here’s who I talked to and what they asked about.
Q: Was there anything you really liked about how you handled the situation?
A: Yeah, here’s what I really liked.
Q: Yes, I thought (insert specific example) was a good way to handle this situation.  Was there anything you would have done differently?

Here’s the sales pitch example of the same thing.  As an engineer by training, I want to just barrage people with facts, but it turns out to be very interesting if you listen to what they have to say.

Q: how are you managing your schedule now?
A: Spreadsheet & whiteboard
Q: (DING!!! At this point I want to talk about how great we are at solving the problem of having data in multiple places, making it accessible to everyone instantly in one place, blah, blah blah, but sometimes I restrain myself) So, what works well about that?
A: … does the job…
Q: So what’s not working about how you do it today?

This 3-step approach is surprisingly simple, but hard to do.  Training yourself to do it is worth it… just practice asking questions and don’t jump out of your skin because you know the answer.

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Written by Harry Hollander

February 9, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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