3 Power Questions to Boost Your Growth Strategy
Inquiry: The Strategist’s Trade Secret
Most business leaders know that crafting and communicating strategic objectives to bring your vision to reality is critical to success. But, it is easier said than done. And, if you set your strategic objectives in the wrong direction, it can lead to failure.
So, here’s a tip I share with participants in my growth strategy workshops:
Tap into the power of good questions to help guide the development of your strategic objectives. In an earlier post, I discussed the need for SMART objectives (see http://kinneystrategy.com/blog/are-your-marketing-objectives-moving-you-in-the-wrong-direction). Once you have a good draft of a strategic objective, don’t stop there. Dig deeper. Strategic objectives don’t work by themselves, of course. You have to figure out how to accomplish them. Which, in turn, becomes your strategy.
Here are 3 simple, but extremely powerful questions that will help keep you on track and give a little boost to your strategic planning:
Power Question One: Why?
Frame your draft strategic objective as a “why?” question. For instance, if you want to generate $10,000,000 in revenue by year-end 2016, then a why question might become, “Why should we generate $10,000,000 in annual revenue by year-end 2016?” You may also see some other “why” questions as well, like, “Why year-end 2016?” The questions will prompt a set of “because” answers. Those explanations will point to that what you are really after. And, it might even serve as a catalyst to change your strategic objective to one that will more elegantly (more quickly, more efficiently) advance you to what you want.
Now, for every “because” answer that is given, keep asking why. Try asking “why?” 5 times so that you have a chain of responses, each response leading you closer to the true root objective. By the way, there is no magic to asking 5 times. I’ve simply found that by the 3rd or 4th probe, things start to crystallize just about at the point where the exercise becomes really annoying!
A word of caution: the question “why?” may evoke an unintended emotional response for some leaders who may perceive it as a challenge, threat or outright insubordination. “Why are you challenging me on this?” is not an uncommon first response. However, as a strategic planning tool, “why?” is a powerful ally and can unlock a wealth of information. I have found that leaders who foster cultures that encourage questions develop better strategies and make better decisions.
Power Question 2: How?
“How?” is a lot less threatening than “why?” and opens the doors of possibility and opportunity. Once you have a “why?” vetted strategic objective, frame it as a “how?” question. For instance, using the example above, the “how?” version may become, “How will we generate $10,000,000 in annual revenue by year-end 2016?”
“How?” questions get people thinking. You’ve turned your strategic objective into something that begs to be solved and answered. Now you can use that question to your advantage by asking your team and trusted advisors to brainstorm solutions to your “how?” question. The fruit of those brainstorming sessions will become strategic options that you can explore and evaluate. That leads us to the 3rd power question.
Power Question 3: What If?
I recommend answering the “how?” power question with a “what if?” question. Phrasing your answer in the form of a “what if?” question rather than a statement keeps the answer in an open idea format and compels your planners to explore the possibilities and implications of the idea. And, at this stage of the strategic planning process, the aim is to identify as many strategic options as possible. Unlike definitive statements, “what if?” questions spark other ideas and invite further analysis. Challenge your team to come up with as many “what if?” questions as possible.
“Why, you ask?”
Well, it is very likely that at least one of these “what if’s?” will turn out to be your best strategic option. If you are working on a strategic plan, try these 3 power questions and let me know how they work for you.