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A good technique I picked up on a while ago during a learning event which can help with thinking and innovation is the Questioning Technique. This is basically where you break down each part (word) of the question and challenge it by asking other questions around it. This helps in opening the orignal question up and looking at it through different lenses. You then ask broader and narrower questions.

During the learning event we were asked to question a certain question “In uncertain times how do you keep staff morale high?”.

Below is how I broke each word down.

IN

  • “In” what?
  • What boundaries make us “in”?
  • Is being “in” a limitation?
  • What situation makes us “out”?

UNCERTAIN

  • Why are we “uncertain”?
  • What are we “uncertain” about?
  • What is causing us to be “uncertain”?
  • How long will this last?
  • How much change is expected?
  • Is this period of “uncertain” a regular thing?

TIMES

  • Is this past, present or future times?
  • Is this a fixed amount of time?
  • How is this time being measured?
  • Are the times successive?
  • Is this fixed to a specific event in the economy?
  • Is this relating to a particular environment?
  • Who is defining the period of time?

HOW

  • How is morale today?
  • How has morale been over a period of time?
  • How is morale measured?
  • By what means should things change?
  • Why do things need to change?
  • Is there a quick fix or a long term solution?
  • Does the “how” attract costs?
  • What is the return for increasing morale?

DO

  • Instead of just doing “do” should question why first.  “Why” do things need to change?
  • In doing the “do” is there a plan needed?
  • Does “do” attract any costs?
  • Are you looking for new ideas or can you reuse something from somewhere else?
  • Who is going to “do”, individual, staff, company?

YOU

  • Does “you” relate to one person or everyone who is a member of staff?
  • Is it the responsibility of the person reading this question, just management or the company as a whole?
  • Is this directed at a specific individual?
  • Can one person be the catalyst to the changes needed or will it take a few or more to drive these through?
  • Could “how can we” make a better statement and open this to be more of an open question rather than a direct one?

KEEP

  • How long is a morale issue going to be kept for?
  • What period of time is “keep”?
  • Should this be “maintain” instead of “keep”?
  • Does keeping or maintaining attract any costs or overheads?
  • What happens if this is not kept up?

STAFF

  • Does this refer to a small section of “staff” or all “staff”?
  • Does this include any 3rd parties?
  • Who are the “staff”?
  • Is it “staff” who work in a particular environment?
  • Is it “staff” at a particular job level or pay grade?

MORALE

  • What is the level of “morale” at the moment?
  • How is this measured? Is this one person’s view of the morale at the moment or is there a wider view?
  • Is the view inside or outside of the company?
  • Is a person’s home life a factor in morale?
  • Is the effect on morale in the persons or companies ability to change (government, news, conflict, economy, wages, bonus, working environment, or the weather)?
  • Is morale being driven down by a competitor and their products?
  • Is changing morale at work going to have a knock on affect at home?
  • Is it home life that is affecting the persons morale?
  • Is there a work/life balance?
  • Is morale low due to high pressures and increased workload?
  • Will having an impact on morale change that persons or companies output or decrease it?
  • What is done at the moment to boost morale?

HIGH

  • How “high” is high?
  • Does Morale need to be lifted a little bit or a lot?
  • What is the measure of “high”?
  • Is there a scale of measurement in use or how will it be known when morale has reached the right level?
  • Is this one person’s perception of “high” or a multitude?
  • Is there an outside force driving the level of “high”?
  • Is there a cost of reaching this “high”?
  • What happens after you have reached the “high”?

Broader Questions

  • What are uncertain times?
  • What is the morale of the country at the moment?
  • How long will uncertain times last?
  • Is there an underlying cause?
  • If morale is higher does productivity become higher?
  • What are our competition doing?
  • What do the Staff think the morale level is?
  • Once morale is high how long will it last?
  • What other events will bring morale down?
  • Do our customers notice our morale levels?
  • How do other companies do it?

Narrower Questions

  • How can we understand the staffs perception of the level of morale?
  • How can we understand  our customers perception of the levels of morale?
  • If we gave staff a pay increase would this increase morale?
  • If we gave staff an additional holiday would this increase morale?

Conclusion

After going through this technique I would look to initially change the question from “In uncertain times how do you keep staff morale high?” to “How can we maintain positive staff morale?”. This focuses the thinking and creativity needed to suggest solutions.

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