What are the questions you ask in your organization? In Change Your Questions. Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life, Marilee Adams says we think in terms of questions. These questions range from simple to complex; from “What should I eat?” to “How can I best live my values?” Adams developed a Choice Map which depicts how questions can lead you to a place of learning vs. judging. For instance, "What do I need to do differently?" takes you to a much better place than asking, "Why am I such a loser?" This Choice Map is a valuable tool for individuals — it was predominantly displayed on my refrigerator when my kids where little — and it has applications for organizations.
It’s been my experience in working with organizations that there is a tendency to quickly find the fix or determine the root cause after an incident. While a timely response is important, I have found the “rush to action” impacts the ability to learn the valuable lessons mistakes provide. Chris Argyris, one of the leading experts in organizational learning, wrote about single-loop and double-loop learning. In single-loop learning, an error or problem occurs and it is solved and handled within the existing construct of the organization. In double-loop learning, an error or problem occurs and the reasons for the error are subjected to critical scrutiny. By discovering, challenging and changing the underlying assumptions that led to the error or problem, the organization learns and shifts in its fundamental assumptions about the way work is done.
So, what are the questions you ask in your organization? To facilitate double-loop learning, here's a few for your consideration: How might the choices we made at the time have seemed totally logical? How did my actions contribute to the problem? What does this incident say about our organization and the way we work? What do we need to learn?
Changing your questions can change the way you work, moving you from a workplace that’s stuck to a workplace that truly learns and grows.