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Ask Empowering Questions to Facilitate Change

How to Ask Empowering Questions to Facilitate Change

  • 10 November 2016
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Of course, positive leadership as discussed before entails more than asking questions. But let’s focus on the art of asking questions to facilitate successful organizational change. I’ll share one question based on the OCAI and the Competing Values Framework that helps people define what successful change would mean for their organization.

During an organizational change process, I facilitate the process of answering a sequence of questions that help organizations understand their current culture, define their desired culture, and find ways to get from where they Are to where they want to Be.

It’s essential that the organization asks and answers questions - and not the outside “expert.” The organizational system contains all the answers - but you need to find them. Answers are both hidden in plain sight and the subconscious minds of the staff. As an outsider, I have fresh eyes outside of their hierarchy and culture, and I can ask questions that were undiscussable before.

Example: at the Rehab

The Rehab faced changes such as less government funding, scarcity in specialized staff, increasing specialization and technological developments, and demanding patients who preferred short programs. The board’s strategic plan was comprehensive but contradictory. They aimed for a 3% growth rate but also more innovation. They wanted more efficiency plus a happy staff…

I asked them: Would you swap efficiency for innovation? If you would have to give up efficiency and a 3% growth rate to achieve innovation, would you do so?

The executives of the Rehab looked pained. They didn’t like this line of questioning because they didn’t want to choose. Precisely that was one of their main problems... They wanted to have it all! Their organization was exhausted.

I asked them: Can you eat the cake and sell it?

The top executives found that annoying but they got the message. They had to decide: what is more important? Cost efficiency, growth, or research, development and innovation? As discussed before, the OCAI and the Competing Values Framework can help organizations ask the right questions, manage competing values, and goals, and choose their focus.

Questions about dilemmas

The Rehab needed to find the real ranking of their priorities: Would you swap efficiency for innovation? If you would have to give up efficiency and a 3% growth rate to achieve innovation, would you do so? The Rehab executives finally chose to enhance innovation and entrepreneurship.

Next, they refined their focus by answering these questions to solve their dilemmas:

  • How can we foster innovation while keeping the costs acceptable?
  • Or, put differently: How can we control costs while we focus on these specific innovations?
  • How can we help employees speak their mind while enhancing productivity (without endless debate)?
  • How do we develop new treatments while we’re busy achieving a 3% growth rate?

This line of questioning stirs creativity and helps organizations to find solutions. Knowing that they can’t have it all at 100% - what could they achieve given their current limitations and conditions? How exactly could they make their proposed change succeed?

The Power of How

Please note that these questions start with How. “How” implies that it is possible. “How” sends the brain looking for solutions. “How” is a very powerful way to start a question and is a token of positive change leaders. There are a few more extremely empowering questions that I use during the Change Circles approach. If you want to learn what questions work and how to use them, I invite you to join the next open 3-day Culture Change Leadership workshop.

If you prefer reading - check out my eBook How to lead Positive Change with Culture and Positive Leadership.

  • What would be an empowering question to facilitate change in your situation? Let me know - I’d love to hear it!

In my next post, I’m going to share another case of organizational change based on the OCAI culture survey and positive leadership! Join me as I work with a technical maintenance company that suffered from very recognizable issues...

Copyright © Marcella Bremer 2016. All rights reserved.