Leading With the Question Mark

June 18, 2012

It is a truism that when boards ask questions, they create work in organizations. So why not ask questions to create work that, when done, increases capability and produces long-term success? When boards master this practice of “leading with the questions mark,”they serve as effective action and competitive advantage to their organizations.

During the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Board Leadership Training Series workshop I led in May, we learned and applied tools and techniques to create a future of extraordinary results. The following system of seven questions will enhance your organization’s ability to “pull this future” into the present.

  1. What is our strategy, and how does it provide sustainable value to our stakeholders?
  2. What is our culture? Was it derived from our strategy, and does it enable the strategy. If yes, how? If no, why not?
  3. What is our organizational structure? Does it invite behaviors representing our culture that will enable strategy? If yes, how? If no, why not?
  4. What are our key management systems? Are they aligned with our structure and, as with structure, do they invite behaviors representing our culture that enable strategy?
  5. In view of our strategy, culture, structure, and systems, what technical skills and behavioral traits should our management and, if applicable, workforce possess?
  6. How effective are our selection & recruitment and training & development processes for ensuring our people have these specific “skills & traits”?
  7. Overall: To what degree does our staff have the skills and traits, to manage our systems, in our structure, to practice out culture, to achieve our strategy?

When all these factors – strategy, culture, structure, systems, skills, and traits – are aligned and working interdependently, your organization – whether small or large – will become a source of competitive advantage. And by leading with the question mark, so will you.

For more details on this process check out this video, “Leading with the Question Mark.” Also on the Dodge Technical Assistance YouTube channel, you will find Mark Sickles’ explanation of “A Culture of No Excuses” and “The Concept of the Six Ps” as well as other Technical Assistance videos and interviews.

Mark W. Sickles is an organizational architect and advisor to boards and executives.
His website is www.markwsickles.com.