Asking questions is at the heart of the Get Information phase of the 3G’s. Observation and tracking get you part of the way, but to get qualitative data, you need to be talking to people. The customer will often be your audience, but so can a stakeholder, a participant, or a key partner. Whoever it is, asking the right questions will narrow your search for That One Thing, and build trust among all parties.
Knowing the right moment to ask a question requires understanding that there are different types of questions for different situations. Two important categories are Open and Closed. Open questions establish an understanding between you and your customer and are designed to elicit longer answers. They implore your customer to “tell you more” about a subject and also help build a rapport for future conversations. You need to keep asking Open questions until you can recognize That One Thing.
Closed questions elicit short responses to confirm your understanding with your customer. Once you believe you have found That One Thing, you need to make sure that it really is important to them. By asking Closed questions, you’re also signaling to your customer that you understand That One Thing, and can begin planning a solution from a common point of reference.
While the Open and Closed categories deal with the type of response you intend to get, you also need to structure questions to fit the circumstance. For this, you will need to Challenge, Compare, and Expand.
Challenge questions task your customer with assessing what they really value in successful training. Every LMC requires making trade-offs to build a sustainable learning project or model. A Challenge question puts the customer in the state of mind to judge those compromises. If you’re trying to overcome a stakeholder’s objection to a cost or feature, these are the kinds of questions you should be asking:
Compare questions put two or more options or solutions side by side so your customer can assess their value in isolation. Any of the nine LMC Components can be compared, and you may even ask your customer to rank them in importance. Compare questions reveal where L&D exists on the importance ladder and how it can contribute to achieving the overall business’ goals. If you are trying to get a feel for a stakeholder’s priorities, these are the kinds of questions you should be asking:
Expand questions encourage the customer to explore additional possibilities by putting them in a future-focus state of mind. They are meant to open the customer’s imagination to types of solutions they would not normally consider, which means they are an opportunity for savvy learning leaders to subtly introduce L&D’s solution within the context of a question. If you’re trying to lead your customers toward a desired answer, these are the kinds of questions you should be asking:
While I’ve mostly been referring to stakeholder conversations, L&D should also strive to ask itself the right questions. As you draft a Learning Model Canvas, you should be clarifying and challenging your assumptions at every Component. An LMC does you no good if you aren’t populating it with honest evaluations of your current situation and desired outcomes. Asking the right questions often yields unexpected answers, even from yourself.
You may think you already have That One Thing well in hand, but you don’t want to base an entire strategy around “think.” You need to know what your customer really cares about, and the quickest, and most accurate way to do so is asking questions. If you’d like to see additional examples of productive questions or want to know more about the 3G’s, drop me a line, or leave a comment below.