Note: This article is updated at Cutting Questions.
How do you cut to the chase? How do you clear the air of ambiguity and get to facts? Ask cutting questions.
My manager, Per , doesn't ask a lot of questions. He asks the right ones. Here's some examples:
- Who's on board? Who are five customers that stand behind you?
- Next steps?
- What does your gut say?
- Is it working? Is it effective?
- What would "x" say? (for example, what would your peers say?)
- What's their story?
- Where's your prioritized list of scenarios?
As simple as it sounds, having five separate customers stand behind you is a start. I'm in the habbit of litmus checking my path early on to see who's on board or to find the resistance. As customers get on board, my confidence goes up. I've also seen this cutting question work well with startups. I've asked a few startups about their five customers. Some had great ideas, but no customers on board. The ones that had at least five are still around.
At the end of any meeting, Per never fails to ask "next steps? ", and the meeting quickly shifts from talk to action.
"Is it working?" is a pretty cutting question. It's great because it forces you to step back and reflect on your results and consider a change in approach.