Good questions to ask

November 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Practice Excellence, Real-life experiences | 1 Comment

Recently I had an interesting experience where I happened to be present in an unusual discussion between a father, mother, their teenage daughter and an aunty who was visiting them. The daughter, let’s call her Priya to protect her identity, wanted to spend a rather large sum – beyond her pocket money – on her birthday party for friends, which would have been a bit of a strain on her father’s wallet. Obviously, he was bit reluctant and was opposed to the idea though he was not openly saying so.

Priya had recently attended one such a party at her friend’s house and wanted to outdo her friend. Mother had to take a final decision. This may sound rather odd for some old timers who still believe that father is head of the house and should always have a last say, without realizing that times have changed. The discussion was taking the usual course with Priya fighting for her idea, the father getting more & more annoyed and the mother looking at them with an exasperated look on her face while the aunty kept closely watching the discussions without saying a word.

Then suddenly I heard her say to Priya, “Can I ask you a question?” When Priya nodded, I was surprised by the question the aunty asked “Do you see any problems if you gave such an expensive party?” Priya was so agitated by the discussions so far that she hardly understood the question and went on with her arguments which she had repeated umpteen times so far. Aunty interrupted her and quietly said, “I understand what you are saying but ..” and repeated the earlier question again. Priya suddenly stopped and was thinking for a few minutes before she spoke again. This time she was tentatively repeating some of the arguments her father had given earlier though providing her counter arguments.

After hearing her for a few minutes, the aunt asked a similar question to the father, “Do you see any reasons why it might be a good idea for Priya to go ahead and give the party, though I understand that the cost seems to be a bit too high?” The father had by now understood the direction the aunt was giving to the discussion and mentioned a few reasons in favor of giving the party. By now the points put forward by each of them were slowly merging with a lot of give & take. Finally there was no need for the mother to give her decision as it was already amicably evolved by the father with Priya.

After witnessing this incidence, I started thinking whether we face similar situations in other parts of our life. For example, as a passionate champion of Scrum, I often try to convince the project managers to go for it. My arguments are in favor of Scrum and the project manager concerned will normally come up with ten different reasons why it won’t work for him. In such situations, generally the person who has to take a final decision is not a part of these discussions. What if such a person who has to take a decision on Scrum adoption in a given project gets me and the project manager together, asks manager to only focus on mentioning how it would help the project and asks me what problems I anticipate in implementing it successfully, both of us would be forced to think differently and the quality of discussion will be raised to the next level. I will have to understand more about the project and the manager will have to similarly know more about Scrum.

If we look, this approach might be quite helpful whenever there are two parties with their strong convictions and a person who has to take the call. What do you think? Have you come across similar cases? Your views and inputs are valuable; please share.

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  1. Yes, putting oneself into other’s shoes will enable understand other’s views to come to a favourable balance of pro’s and con’s. The normal tendency is to stick to one’s own conviction because that would have proved right in more than one occassions.

    Surely nice way of handling conflict for an amicable win-win.


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