Three Questions Your Organization Should be Asking

Business leaders ask questions all the time. ​

Three Questions Your Organization Should be Asking

There are immediate questions: Is the project on time? Are we within budget? 

There are longer-term questions: Do we have the right team in place? Is our strategic plan sound?  

Asking questions is critical to the health and success of all organizations regardless of size or industry. In his book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger says, “most creative, successful business leaders have tended to be expert questioners. They’re known to question the conventional wisdom of their industry, the fundamental practices of their company, even the validity of their own assumptions.” Warren’s central premise is that questions, or more precisely, big and ambitious questions, serve as catalysts for positive change and revolutionary ideas that set great companies apart.

At TEN|10 we have observed the power of questioning firsthand. Our clients tend to be entrepreneurial by nature and well-practiced at digging deeper by asking pertinent, and often tough, questions. That said, sometimes there are important questions that fall by the wayside as leaders focus on metrics. It is easy to get tunnel vision when it comes to running a business day to day.  With this in mind, we offer the following three “beautiful” questions for your consideration. These may not be top of mind, but they are key to long-term success.

1.  Are our business strategy and operations aligned with our core values?  

Core values are fundamental beliefs that are meant to drive the behaviors of all employees within an organization. Often great care and consideration are taken in the development of core values. However, the real work is not in the creation of the language,  but in creating an environment where living the values is second nature. Hanging a printout in the break room is not sufficient. It is a worthwhile exercise to review your business strategy and operations through the lens of the core values you expect your team to use as the foundation for every decision.

2.   Are our employees incentivized to innovate?

Leaders are typically pretty good at setting performance incentives for employees. This commonly takes the form of annual incentive plans, profit sharing, discretionary bonuses and/or spot awards. It is also typical for organizations to reward status quo achievements and disincentivize risk. But risk-taking is germane to innovation. Leaders should seek incentive structures that allow for failure and thus encourage creativity and invention. Google, a standard-bearer in innovation, has institutionalized improvement through policies such as the “20 Percent Time” rule. This practice allows all employees to use 20 percent of their time to work an idea, and the results have been game-changers like Gmail and Google Maps. Consider evaluating your incentive plans to ensure they encourage employees to create and invent.

3.  Do we have a healthy workplace culture?

While culture can feel intangible, it can have an observable and significant impact on your bottom line. Culture is what makes a firm unique. It gives the organization character and personality. Research tells us people look for meaning in their work, and ultimately their professional satisfaction is tied to this precept. A healthy culture drives a meaningful work experience, so assessing the state of your workplace culture is essential.

These questions, while critically important in and of themselves, also are meant as a starting point. Leaders should seek their own unorthodox and consequential questioning to drive their businesses forward.

Look for our next blog post in April where we will dig deeper on Why Culture Matters.