The only foolish question is the one that was never asked!
When you begin any project, are trying to make a change in your life, or are faced with a difficult undertaking, the best way to improve your result is to ask the important questions first. If you are working as part of a team, some questions may need to be asked of others. When working towards an individual goal, you will be the one giving the answers.
Ask, ask, ask — until you’re confident that you have a firm understanding. Don’t wait until you’re stuck and spinning your wheels. Ask the questions and find the answers first!
Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. – Anthony Robbins
Why am I doing this?
It’s important to understand the reason behind anything you undertake. Whether it’s a goal, task, habit, or project, “why am I doing this?” should be the first question you ask yourself. Understanding the reason behind the actions can be a tremendous motivator.
What is the desired outcome?
Without being clear about the desired result, you can’t plan how to get there. Identify what you’re trying to accomplish and exactly what that will look like. Clarity is key. Vague targets are rarely attained. Defined and tangible objectives have much greater success.
When is the deadline and are there periodic checkpoints?
Know when the action or project needs to be complete. Be aware of any phases or interim deadlines along the way. If you know how much time you have to work with, you can better plan backwards and set aside the necessary amount of time.
What is my role?
Understanding your role is crucial. Are you the leader or a worker bee? Are you a researcher or a communicator? Are you a team coordinator or planner? It’s important to know which role you play so you can align your actions. If it is an individual undertaking, then you are most likely all of the above.
Who is responsible or accountable for which tasks or projects?
This is related your role, but in a more specific and tangible way. Determine which specific tasks you are personally responsible for. Know who maintains accountability. Perhaps you are the one whom others are accountable. Define your responsibilities.
Do I have metrics or some form of measurement?
Establish a measurement of success, so that progress can be determined. If metrics are set by someone else, know what they are and if there is any flexibility.
What are the possible roadblocks or obstacles?
We almost always encounter snags along the way to completion. However, difficulties can more easily be overcome if we can prepare for them. It’s not always possible to prepare, complications by their very nature, are frequently unforeseen, but if you at least try to anticipate potential setbacks, they can often be resolved quickly.
What are the available resources?
Be aware of what resources are available. Be cognizant of the number of people involved or accessible to you and their skills. Be honest about the amount of time that can be committed. Also, understand if there are financial constraints.
How important is this project or task?
The importance of any goal or project determines how much attention and effort it deserves. Higher priority items get moved to the top of the list, while less crucial tasks can often be pushed back. If a project affects the profitability of a business or the health and well-being of an individual, it usually gets top priority.
What can I do to be more effective?
Develop strategies to help you be more efficient and productive. Improve the quality of your work by utilizing useful and effective tools. Better organizational skills greatly enhance effectiveness. Learn to be resourceful.
Asking questions is a valuable tool in every area of business and life. This often-overlooked strategy can make the difference between success and failure. When we get clear about what we are trying to accomplish and why, we have a much better chance of attaining the desired result. Likewise, when we align our actions with what is expected of us, we can better meet our responsibilities. Finally, if we plan and prepare we can best utilize the skills and resources available to us to achieve the most success.
(Photo credit: …Inerrogation Symbol… via Shutterstock)