Finding Answers to Probing Questions

It is the answer to a Probing Question that makes it so powerful.

Why Provide time to Find the Answers

Value Substance over Quickness

Providing time to find potential answers to the Probing Question, allows each team member time to find and formulate his/her thoughts. This has immediate and positive benefits. The emphasis will be placed on substance rather than quickness. Everyone has something to contribute. This simple facilitation tool extends the team’s resources beyond simply relying on the few who are quick to verbally respond.

Vital to the process is the time needed to find all potential answers:

✦ Everyone needs time to reflect, inquire, study, and learn.

✦ The number and quality of potential answers are valued.

✦ Time allows for introspection, interviewing, and investigation.

✦ Time facilitates a greater number of participants.

✦Time reduces peer influence, “group think,” and “follow the leader.”

✦ Time gives team members opportunity to record all potential answers.

If you ask a probing question that causes people to contemplate an answer, then it is only reasonable that time is allowed for that contemplation.

Providing this time allows every team member to consider his/her own knowledge, understanding, ability, insight, intuition, resource, access and energy. Of course, an assortment of misperceptions, blind spots, invalid assumptions, irrational responses, prejudice and bias will be thought of as well. But that’s part of the process. The task at hand is to gather all potential answers to the probing question.

Best Place to find Answers to Probing Questions

Time provides opportunity to dig for insight. Team members need this time to reflect, inquire, study, and learn. The search is important and sometimes finding answers takes time. The process must provide the time needed to find potential answers by:

Introspection – each participant should inquire internally for answers to the probing question. Since team members are a potential source of knowledge, understanding, ability, insight, intuition and resource, then the first logical place to search for potential answers is for each participant to ask: What do I know? What have I observed? What do I think? etc.

Interviewing – each participant should ask stakeholders, witnesses, end users, customers, operators, designers, bystanders, or people close to the “problem,” the probing question and record their answers.

Investigation – each participant should read the documentation, data, study the evidence, visit the location, examine the physical evidence and record what is found. Looking under every rock; namely, people, practice, policy, procedures, equipment, environment (internal and external) materials, management, training, communication, supervision, changes, designs, attitudes, morale, behaviors, values, beliefs. Check out every hunch. Pay attention to clues. Trust your intuition.

Special Note: The greatest danger in problem solving is not the danger of gathering bogus or useless information, but never getting the needed information. Problem solvers will need to sift through worthless input to find the worthwhile resources.

A Word of Caution: Brainstorming, while extremely popular, is overused. In most situations, its application stifles problem solving. It is recommended that the use of brainstorming be controlled. Why?

  • People forget what they have to say while waiting to speak.
  • It perpetuates “group think” because people tend to follow the most vocal or articulate person, resulting in a limited range of thought.
  • Spontaneous response has a tendency to be “surface.”
  • Brainstorming tends to be dominated by the outspoken, boisterous and overbearing to the exclusion of the reserved, soft-spoken, quiet and effective.

To Learn more:

Read, Problem Terminators an Amazon ebook

Download the Master Facilitator’s Guide Volume II Creative Root Cause Analysis