This specific post is prompted by a recent political discussion I had – don’t worry I’m not going to get embroiled in a political discussion – however the example is instantly recognizable in our current lives, while the premise is equally applicable to our companies.

Consider the effectiveness of these two questions:

Question mark and colorful paper with different direction.


What can we do to change the current gun laws?


What can we do to make the world (nation) a safer place?




Both of these questions are “on topic” however the first leads us to defending and debating the detailed rights of gun ownership; the second opens up the ability to consider all options of making the world/nation a safer place in a more holistic manner.

Which do you think will have the better results?


My premise is “how we start the discussion is directly related to the success we will have” and in my experience this same dilemma occurs in businesses.

While we all work hard to resolve issues, starting with “What’s the problem we are trying to solve?” will get us headed off in the right direction.


A common business example would be around improving customer service:


What can we do to improve our customer service?

What do we want to be known for in terms of customer service and how do we get there?


The first question usually gets to the tired, old details of training employees on the front-line to smile, ensure short waiting times, resolve problems quickly and/or create “customer service scripts.”


The second helps us define what we want our customer service to be known for, with a resulting set of guidelines, values and practices that everyone from the top down understands and adheres to being the real value – a more holistic, strategic approach.


The opportunity to employ “What’s the problem we are trying to solve” in companies occurs multiple times every single day as we consider whether to:


  • Add more staff?
  • Upgrade our technology?
  • Change our product offerings?
  • Define our operating standards?
  • Move to new office space?
  • Measure our performance?
  • Reorganize our business?


…you’ll be amazed at the much better discussion and result when you broaden the topic, especially with the right people in the room!


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