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Dissolving Complexity with Precision Questioning

Precision Questioning (PQ) is an intellectual toolkit developed at Stanford University for critical thinking and problem-solving.

Bill Gates requested all employees be PQ trained at Microsoft, enabling thoughtful and succinct conversations!

There are seven categories, each with drill-down areas:

Go / No Go – Do we need to talk about this? The willingness of parties and the preferred approach, considering motivations, agendas, goals, ground rules, what is to follow, and how important it is.

Clarification – What do you mean? Vagueness and ambiguity dissolve by exploring where, when, impact, probabilities, trends and a shared understanding of definitions.

Assumptions – What are we assuming? A great place to start for a shared understanding of perspectives, what exists, how unique it is, can it be measured, the value – good or bad, variances in assumptions, and exploration of why – is this due to a person's background or experience, and what might this be similar to?

Basic Critical Question – How do we know this is true? Various questions consider the source of the information, how credible it is, supporting quantitative data, qualitative logic and what further research is required.

Causes – What is causing this? These drill into the explanations exploring triggers and conditions for triggers, root and contributing causes, single or multiple causes and what was happening at the time.

Effects – What will be the effects? These questions focus on direct and indirect effects, alternative scenarios, probabilities, time-spans and predictions.

Actions – What should be done? Questions consider who, when, root cause or containment, strategy versus tactics, and other areas such as milestones, mitigations, alternatives and support.

Your approach will vary between colleagues trained in PQ, with whom you can be very direct, and those who are not, where you will need to build rapport.

Practising these questions will enable you to create a shared understanding of situations more frequently and subsequent quality actions.

It is a section within my upcoming book Making Life Happen!


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