Wednesday 18 November 2009

asking the forward question

Question Mark and Arrow
Originally uploaded by laurakgibbs

I blogged a while ago about "looking backward to look forward", and the role of the facilitator in ensuring that Retrospects and After Action Reviews draw lessons for the future, rather than just looking back at the past.

One of your most powerful tools for doing this is what I call the "forward looking question". And not just in Retrospects and After Action reviews either - the forward looking question is very powerful in Learning Histories and Retention Interviews as well

Once you have identified a point where the individual or team has learned a lesson, and you have got to the root cause behind the lesson – the factor that made it go well, or the element that made it fail, or go badly. That is when you ask a future-tense question, to require the person or team to analyse the learning and create a recommendation. The question might be one of the following.

o What would be your advice for someone doing this in future?
o If you were doing this again, what would you do next time?
o If you could go back in time and give yourself a message, what would you tell yourself?

This last question is vital, and needs to be asked. By getting them to provide advice and recommendation, you are moving beyond exploring the history of the project, and starting to think about what should be repeated, or what should be avoided. You are starting to identify the process improvements, which will lead to real learning.

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