Category Archives: Planning

Great questions pt. 2: GROW and 5QF

Here are two very useful tools based on asking powerful questions. You can use both tools to support and help others clarify goals or find solutions, or you can use them to structure your own planning and thinking process.

Both tools are questioning routes, they set out a structured journey based on the power of questions. They will help you think and plan in a positive way. You can use them to help planning, goal setting, and problem solving. They are useful if you’re a project manager, a manager of people, leading a team, running a company, or when you’re dealing with clients or customers.


This was developed as a coaching tool and is now widely used in the business environment. GROW is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options, Way forward – it provides a structured approach to problem solving and planning.

Some people like to add a T – for Topic – as the first stage to ensure that everyone involved is clear what is being discussed.

It is important to follow the stages in the GROW order.

Stage 1. Goal

Ask: What is it you want to achieve? What is your goal?

Remember – a goal should be aspirational and motivating, and it should also be SMART:

Specific – it is clear, not vague
Measurable – you know when it’s been achieved
Attainable – it’s realistic in the sense that it can be attained, and you have the necessary resources
Relevant – it will help you achieve long-term plans, it is in line with your values
Time specific – it has a time limit

Therefore, after the initial goal question, you might ask others such as:

Exactly what will it look like?
When will it be finished?
How much will it cost?

The goal setting comes at this stage, before the Reality section, so that the process is started on a positive note, and you are less likely to be constrained by thinking about the problems of the moment or past failures.

Stage 2. Reality

Ask: Where are you now? What is the current situation?

At this point you should analyse the current situation, exploring those areas that directly impact on or influence the achievement of the goal. What have you already achieved, and what might be holding you back. In simple terms, you need to know where you are now in order to know how to get where you want to be – if your goal is to make a 1000 widgets a day, or make a journey to a specific destination, you need to know the current level of production or the journey’s starting point.

Stage 3. Options

Ask: What options have you got?

At this stage you should identify the options you have for getting to your goal.

A key question at this stage is: what other options are there? The more options you can explore the more chance of success. Brainstorming can be done to produce a list of options.

Analyse the options and chose the one that will most readily get you to your goal.

Stage 4.

Ask: What will you do now? What exactly will you do?

At this point you need to plan the way forward – how will you put your chosen option into action, what will you actually do?

Sometimes, as you start to plan you realise that there are aspects of the main goal, or sub-goals, that are not clear, in which case you can use GROW again to clarify.



5QF is another framework for tackling problems and challenges, and for moving forward.

It’s a great tool for overcoming ‘blockages’ and helping in situations where no progress is being made towards solving problems. It’s a very positive tool in that it looks at assets – what’s working rather than what’s broken, what you have achieved rather than what you haven’t done.

At the heart of 5QF is a simple set of five questions. The order of the questions is important.

Question 1 – What’s working?

In the vast majority of situations there is something that is working, it’s very rare to have a situation where everything is bad, or broken, or wrong. This question starts the investigation on a positive note, it helps to overcome feelings of ‘I can’t solve this.’

Question 2 – Why is it working?

This question is designed to get deeper into an understanding of what’s right, and it reinforces the positive start. Also, if you know what’s working you can do more of it, and this might help you to find other things that work.

Question 3 – Where do we want to be?

This question seeks to clarify the goal – what do we need to achieve, what will it be like when everything is fixed?

Question 4 – What needs tweaking?

This question moves on from what’s working to look at what is almost working, to look at other things that are already in place or already being done, but which aren’t quite achieving the desired results. In most situations there will be a lot of things that don’t need replacing, they just need adjusting, developing, adapting.

Question 5 – What resources could help?

The last question looks at what else can be bought to bear on the problem – does it need more thought, someone else to give a fresh perspective, more time/money etc? It’s the question that starts to look at what else can be done that is not currently being done.

For more on the Five Question Framework see Kurt Wright, Breaking the Rules: Removing the Obstacles to Effortless High Performance, C P M, 1998.

Delegate at Christmas

Christmas is a time for giving, so I thought I’d do a newsletter about delegation. After all, delegation can be like giving a present, with benefits for both the giver and the receiver.

For the person delegating, the benefits include freeing up time. Also, all good managers know they have a responsibility to develop their staff, delegation can help with this and can be a rewarding part of a manager’s work. For the one being delegated to, the benefits include new skills and experience, the sense of being trusted and empowered, and increased motivation. So, benefits all round.

In the workshops and coaching I do, I’m often surprised by people’s reluctance to delegate. Excuses for not delegating usually fall into these three categories:

It’s quicker to do it myself. Yes, if it’s a one-off task it might be, but so often recurring tasks are not delegated – on the first occasion you save time, but on subsequent occasions it starts to cost time.

My staff are not capable. No, they’re not and never will be if you take that attitude. Train them.

They will be better than me. Yes, and that’s how it should be – Richard Branson has said his success is partly due to hiring people who know more than he does. Your staff should be experts at all sorts of things – but you’ll still be the manager.

So, what does good delegation look like? Here are nine steps to help you achieve successful delegation.

1. Make sure you understand the task to be delegated – its measures of success, budget, time-scale etc. If you don’t understand it, it’s unlikely that the person you pass it to will.

2. Think about who you are delegating to – have they got the time, skills etc., and what support or training do they need.

3. Give them the bigger picture. It’s hard to complete a job in isolation, not knowing where it’s come from and what’s dependent on the outcome.

4. Set aside time to delegate. Make sure you thoroughly explain what is to be done – what, when, where, how much etc. Importantly, make sure everyone is clear about what authority and decision making powers you are delegating. Is it necessary to provide a written brief?

5. Check understanding. Ask them and ask if they have any questions.

6. Agree timetable and report backs. How will you know that they are proceeding ok?

7. Be available. You can’t walk away – even though you’ve delegated the task you still have a responsibility to make sure it’s completed.

8. Be available to give advice or support.What happens at the end? Who needs to know when the task is complete?

9. Review and feedback. Spend time reviewing how things went, what has been learnt, and what might it be different next time. Congratulate.

By the way, you can delegate at all times of the year, not just Christmas.

Questions can change lives

The right question, asked in the right way at the right time can challenge (in a good way) someone’s perception and thinking, and change their beliefs and behaviours. Asking the right question at the right time can be a great tool to help your staff and colleagues.

Asking something as simple as ‘what do you think?’ can help to:

Make them feel trusted and valued

Build their self-esteem

Build a good working relationship with them

Build their motivation and commitment


If that is followed up with ‘what else do you think?’ then you have the potential to help them:

Think more profoundly

Think things through

Think outside the box

Challenge accepted ways of thinking and doing


These questions are powerful because they have some key attributes.

They are ‘open’ – they invite or push someone to think, to give a detailed answer (as opposed to ‘closed’ questions that require only a yes or no answer).

They are very concise – if you ask a long question the intent can easily get lost, if you ask a multiple question (requiring several answers) you’ll probably only get an answer to the last part.

If you build your own view into the question it can direct or inhibit the answer – asking ‘what do you think?’ is better than saying ‘I think this, what do you think?’

These powerful questions very often start with ‘what’ or ‘how’ – ‘what can we do?’, ‘what will happen?’, ‘how can that be achieved?’, ‘how will you tackle that?’ Be careful of ‘why’ questions, they can sound slightly threatening.

By the way, don’t fear sounding naive when you ask question like this – your brevity and lack of expressed opinion are partly what gives these questions such power.

And, if you suspend your own beliefs and opinions for a moment, you never know, you might get an answer that changes your life too.

Now and tomorrow – mission and vision

I keep hearing or reading the words ‘vision’ and ‘mission’ used in different ways. In the worlds of business and personal development there doesn’t seem to be a generally accepted definition for them, so I thought I’d clarify, at least for myself, their meaning and relevance.

Both words get used to mean a ‘big, important future goal.’ NASA’s oft quoted ‘mission’ was to put a man on the moon – for me that’s a vision! A vision is the thing we work towards.

In contrast, for me, a mission is something ongoing, as in the phrase ‘I’m on a mission.’ A mission is a process, something we attend to or do everyday.

‘To be Prime Minister’, ‘To be a millionaire’ – these are visions.

‘I will go the extra mile for my customers’, ‘I will spend more time with my family’ – these are missions.

Visions are important because they set out our destinations. We need to know where we’re going when we set out on our journey or embark on a project. Visions should have emotional appeal, they should be inspiring and motivating, and they should be extra-ordinary, they should be a picture of a state of being very different from the present.

Missions are important too because they keep us on track. They make sure we keep to our plans and live by our values. And, they should ensure that we get ongoing rewards like a sense of achievement and fulfilment from the work we do.

Which is more important? Neither! For me both the journey and the destination are as important as each other.

What are your mission and vision?

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or