Lesson 2 - Questioning
‘Ask why until you understand’
Quality Improvement Skills: curiosity, critical thinking, listening
All parents will recognise this trait, it drives us mad at times but you cannot doubt its effectiveness. Children have a natural questioning curiosity. They explore, question, wonder, and by doing so learn. Too often, however, well meaning adults curb their curiosity with caveats and warnings like “curiosity killed the cat.” Unfortunately they usually forget to add the second line of the saying: “but satisfaction brought him back.”
As QI leaders we sometimes make assumptions, develop stereotypes, and when it comes to using our analytical intelligence, since we think we already know, we often neglect to ask the questions. It isn’t necessarily that we don’t ask enough questions; it’s perhaps that we don’t ask the right questions. We often forget to ask the most simple but effective questions, especially, “why?” and “why not?”
Coffey et al (1993) identified that effective questions can stimulate, guide, and empower employees to think critically about the improvement processes that they are involved in. Asking thoughtful, well-phrased questions helps us better understand a process or activity, elicit explanations, reinforce or dispel existing knowledge and form opinions. Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz said “you can tell whether a man is clever by his answers but you can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Quality improvement leadership requires the ability to challenge, to question, to doubt and to wonder.
- Useful external links
5 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking All the Time
Author: James E. Ryan | Published: 14/04/17
Great leaders have to inspire the same curiosity, creativity, and deeper thinking in their employees that great teachers inspire in their students – and that starts with asking the right questions. Do you know what questions to ask?
Author: Mind Tools Editorial Team
By asking the right questions you can gather better information and learn more, build stronger relationships, manage people more effectively and help others to learn too. This article explores common questioning techniques, and when to use them.
The Benefits of a Questioning Culture (extract)
Author: Michael Marquardt | Published: March 2014
In a questioning culture, responsibility is shared and when responsibility is shared, ideas, problems and ownership of results are also shared. This is an extract from Leading with Questions (Marquardt, 2014).
How to Ask Better Questions
Author: Mike Vaughan | Published: June 2015
Most questions people ask are ‘safe’: they surface what’s already known. Vaughan explains how top performers ask deep questions which inspire creativity, lead to profound ideas and spur people into action.
Types of Questions
What’s the difference between closed, open, leading and rhetorical questions? And can you interpret how others are responding to your questions? SkillsYouNeed is a Welsh-based skills website. Guides are available to download.
Defining Critical Thinking
Authors: Michael Scriven and Richard Paul, The Thinking Community
Much of our thinking is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced but a critical thinking approach must be systematically cultivated. Learn more in this article and others on this website.
Author: Mind Tools Editorial Team
Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on the quality of your relationships with others. Learn more about Active Listening in this article.
Empathy, trust, diffusing conflict and handling complaints
Author: Alan Chapman
Listening is rarely confined merely to words. Sometimes it involves noticing a silence or a pause. This article explores different levels and types of listening.