Tuesday, 11 September 2007

5 Questions - 30 Minutes

This is a tool that I developed myself a few years ago when I took over a large team with numerous morale issues. The problem I was really looking to solve was how to meet with 30+ people as quickly as possible and get the highest level of commitment from the staff. In addition to this I needed to get an understanding on the health of the group.

What I came up with was the idea of asking Five (5) core questions by e-mailing a form to my team members and encouraging them to respond on a first come first serve basis. This worked surprisingly well. So well in fact I have continued this particular approach with a number of teams since.

So what is it you need to do. In my case I normally choose five questions that cover three to four core topics:
  1. What is your perspective on what is happening around you?
  2. What are you considering personally, be it impact of change or career considerations?
  3. Any feedback for management?

By limiting yourself to five questions across these key areas you will force yourself to make sure the questions are going to give you the biggest return. As an example I have included my most recent questions, please note these questions were written in the context of a team meeting days before hand:

  1. Based upon what you heard on Tuesday afternoon with Bill, Jane and Pete do you have any questions relating to the topic of Program ABC and the Solutions Management Stream within this program?
  2. Do you have have any questions about what is happening? Be it strategically, tactically, team or process?
  3. Do you feel there is clarity around your role – Do you have any questions about this?
  4. What are your current career/Development aspirations/Plans? (Don’t forget this isn’t just courses)
  5. Do you have any points or feedback to management of this team that you would like us to be aware of?

Now asking these questions without any context or controls in place will also mean you do not get serious commitment up front. My experience to date has been that 90% of team members will take it seriously first time round. By effectively managing the responses and making sure you demonstrate and show commitment to the process you can often increase this to 100% on your second or third attempt. The key here is to make sure you visibly demonstrate and confirm the value you place on this activity.

This in particular means respecting the information you receive through this process, and making sure you identify and agree any actions that need to be addressed, and demonstrably follow through on these.

I have also found that you need to assure your team up front that you will respect there contribution. I have traditionally done this by announcing the process in a team meeting, including the first come first serve principal, and then when distributing the questionnaire ensuring there is a disclaimer/encouragement preceding the questions. Again an example is provided below:

This Questionnaire is simply an opportunity for us to have some structure in our catch-up and provide opportunity for you to express your views. In no way will your answers in this document contribute to your appraisal or the remuneration process. So please feel comfortable to answer freely and provides me with an opportunity to better understand perspective.

Finally the benefit of using such an approach across a group that is broader than your direct reports, and in fact take into account those who report to your team leaders/managers is that you open up a direct rapport with the individual, as well as possibly get some great insights into how their team is running, what/how your direct reports are performing, and finally the overall health of your group.

My advice, if you are willing to take it is to use this process within your appraisal or remuneration cycle. Most recently this meant I was facilitating these sorts of conversations once every six months, as the alternate periods were taken up with mid and full year appraisals.

In the case of the 30+ people mentioned above I spent 15-20 hours on this exercise. The returns I received in employee commitment, insights to problems, leadership issues etc. far exceeded any time or cost considerations relative to the time spent.

I hope you find this idea of value. I would appreciate hearing your feedback if you give it a go.



1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:54 pm

    Nice one Andrew. Being one of the 30 people who took the questionnaire I can say that it did work. cheers...