Five Questions for Every Situation
There’s an old adage that claims there is no such thing as a stupid question. While I understand the reason some might stress this as if it were true, I’ve been on both ends of some really dumb questions. (Yes, that means I’ve asked a few.) When tensions are high, there are few things more frustrating than an ill-timed, poorly worded, or completely irrelevant question. Intelligent and well-formed questions serve numerous purposes; they help us gather information, refine or clarify it, and confirm it. While we may struggle to ask intelligent questions in some circumstances, I’d like to provide five questions that have relevance in almost every situation. These questions go beyond the “What’s going on?” question and can really help you begin deeper analysis.
Through the years, I found that in almost every situation, there was a basic set of questions that I’d almost always ask during the initial analysis of phase of consulting engagements. When I realized this, it wasn’t because I was trying to build a script or template. I was simply gathering information for analysis and found myself using these questions over and over. Years later, while working on a book, I found it useful to systemize these questions for use in several analytical processes. The result was something I called STORM. The acronym is focused on the subject matter of each of the five analytical questions.
STORM highlights the five focus areas of these questions: stakeholders, tasks, obstacles, resources, and metrics. Gathering information in these five focus areas is useful in the analysis of nearly every situation. Here are the five questions:
Who are the key stakeholders in this situation? Understanding who the key stakeholders are is very beneficial. Try to determine decision-makers, customers, managers, and others who have a vested interest in the situation. Each stakeholder may have a different perspective and want different results from the situation.
What are the key tasks that need to be completed? Every situation has some set of tasks that must be completed to bring it to a logical and right conclusion. Sometimes we may only know a few of these tasks. It’s important to know the tasks so you can continue further analysis.
What obstacles exist? Knowing the tasks is one thing, but knowing what stands in our way of completing those tasks is quite another thing entirely. Try to determine what obstacles stand in the way of achieving your desired result.
What resources are available? In addressing the situation, what resources are available. Consider time and money, personnel, technology, and other resources that are available to address the situation.
What metrics matter in this situation? There are often key metrics that the situation will impact, or key metrics that have an impact on the situation. Try to list these out for awareness.
While these five questions won’t solve your situation, they provide a good basis for analysis in almost every circumstance. If you’d like a copy of my template for these questions, contact us and we’ll send it over to you free of charge.