Asking Strategic Questions for Better Results

“The people side is the toughest part of your approach,” said Brent Edmisten, a consultant and former VP of supply chain chain operations at Hawker Beechcraft. Which approach was he talking about? Why, handling a request from a client when you want to demonstrate the strategic value you can offer when someone asks for a more tactical request. (Something that’s often easier said than done, according to attendees!)

During one of the first educational sessions of the ISM Conference this year, “Ask Strategic Questions to Align Supply Management Work and Deliver Greater Results” (Session AE), the three speakers shared an approach to framing your own mindset to find out the most important information hiding within a request. It can be tricky to know, after all, if a question is tactical or strategic in nature, and speaker Nancy Q. Smith noted that “we don’t always dig deeper than the surface level of the request.”

How can you ask about a request and collaborate to identify and solve the underlying problem without alienating the client? Using the G.A.P.S method to build a foundation for logic can help. Focus on the important, relevant information required to resolve issues or find new solutions:

G = Goals

A = Actuals

P = Push & Pulls (these can be factors both inside and outside the company)

S = Strategies & Solutions

The way you word questions makes a difference, too. You don’t want to just say “Why?” when a client asks for you to find a new cloud computing system, for example… rather, phrase it like this to get better answers: “What are you observing that calls for a different cloud computing solution?”

So, it’s all about trying to get inside the mindset of the client. You don’t need to be a mindreader with ESP… you simply need to know some basic tactics to ask the right questions to get to the right information.

Is this a tactic that you use? If so, please tell us about your experiences in the comments,


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