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Key questions in any transformation journey

The key questions that any transformation journey or program (or for that matter any project) must cover are these SIX questions:

  • Why?

  • What?

  • Who?

  • When?

  • Where? and a

  • How?

It is popularly known as the 5W1H approach.

Questioning has to be the fulcrum of any transformation or, for that matter, anything that we plan to accomplish in life. Without questions, we do not progress as humans and so no questioning means status-quo. No transformation is ever possible in this space.

Whether it be the simple task of getting a transaction approved or a big decision of buying software., it's only the questions that will give us the answers that help us move forward with a choice.

If the answer to any of the 5W1H questions is not there, or not available, or not satisfactory, we need to go back to where we find answers before we can conclude on the next steps or conclude our decision.

Children are taught this technique (as part of mind maps) as a kind of inquiry learning when they're about to embark on any assignment. Through the use of the inherent technique of interrogation (using the 5W1H approach), children can arrange their thoughts in order, enabling them to learn and understand more.

So we all have something to learn here. We will use 3 examples to understand this approach of 5W1H.

USE CASE EXAMPLE 1: Program or project charter

The key to any transformation program is a document called the Charter. A program or project charter explains the program or the project with a clear articulation of the various aspects. Let me explain this with an illustration of what's typically covered in a Charter.

  1. Why are we doing this program or project?

  2. What are the key objectives and results or deliverables expected? What is the scope?

  3. Who has sponsored the program or project? Who are the project members who will be part of the program and execute the projects? Who are the people who will govern the program and the projects?

  4. When will the program/project start and when will it end?

  5. Where will the program/project be done/delivered?

  6. How will the project be done/delivered and executed?

Once these questions above are asked, discussed, and documented, the Charter becomes a "go-to" document that serves as a formal document whenever there is any doubt on or about the program or project.

This said these key questions can be used under any circumstance or for deciding on any situation that we are in. Let's take some use case examples and illustrate this interrogation technique so that

USE CASE EXAMPLE 2: Official presentations

Many a time when people come up with PPT and ask me to review it, I just use this technique to ascertain whether they are in the right direction or not. Let's try out, for example, the questions that will be as follows:

  1. Why are we doing this presentation?

  2. What is the scope and what are the key objectives or deliverables expected from this presentation? What is the time duration allotted? What is the presentation flow? What is the outcome expected?

  3. Who is your target audience?

  4. When will the presentation start and when will it end?

  5. Where is the presentation to be done - online or physical location, etc?

  6. How will we cover the topics and structure the flow?

USE CASE EXAMPLE 3: Travel planning

Almost all travel, not just once but many times a year. This 5W1H approach is one of the many techniques that we can use to simplify our travel and make it comfortable. Let's try out, for example, the questions that will be as follows:

  1. Why are we travelling? Purpose? Leisure, official, family visit etc.

  2. What are the things we need to carry depending on the answer to the why question above? What is the schedule? What is the time allotted to each place/visit as per our schedule?

  3. Who is travelling with us? Who is booking the tickets? Who is arranging the logistics? Who needs special attention?

  4. When will the travel be planned? When do we need to be ready with the packing etc?

  5. Where are we going - location, etc? Where do we eat every day? etc

  6. How to get there? How are we travelling? How safe is the place? How far is the hotel from the airport? etc

So who should be asking these questions of 5W1H?

Each one of us if we want to drive our tasks or projects objectively.

If we can bring that kid-like enthusiasm to be inquisitive and ask questions, our thoughts will not just shape up but also be in order, enabling us to learn and understand more from the world around us.

Ravishankar Gopalan


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