Four powerful questions to stimulate change

Learn about the four questions you can ask to start conversations about your transformation within your team.

Steffan Surdek
October 4, 2021
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During my career in IT many years ago, I remember management gathering our team in a conference room. They looked at us and said, "Hey, you are now agile." We looked at each other, completely stumped, because there was no clarity around what that meant.

When you start having clarity in your leadership, you are able to start working together better as a team. Because then it is not just about management coming down to dictate what the team is going to do. That is why it is crucial to engage in discussions to create alignment.

In this article, I will dig deeper into some questions you can use to get discussions started. I based the notions I share in this article on the Strategic Change Canvas, a great tool from Jason Little's book the Lean Change Agent.

First, get a core group together

One of the keys of making a transformation happen is to build a small nucleus of people who are clear on the transformation. This can be a team inside the department or the organization.

The goal of using a change canvas is to have questions to base the conversation around. The goal is not to fill out the canvas. The canvas is only a guide to structure the conversation about what the change you are trying to do.

Here are the four questions you can ask to start creating alignment within your team or core group.

Question #1: What is the change?

What is this change that you are trying to do? If you had to distill it and explain it in a sentence or less, what would you say? Work on coming up with that one sentence and tweaking it as a team.

You will see one thing that is great about this exercise. It generates conversations that are just as impactful as the sentence. Ask your team: What does this or that word mean exactly? Does it mean the same thing for you? Does it mean the same thing for everyone? Why or why not?

Question #2: Why are we changing?

If you start finding some commonality, then the next thing is, why is this change important? Because when you are trying to change, people need to know why it is important and what is in it for them. Those two are intertwined in a certain way.

It is not only about what is in it for them. It has to be about what is in it for the business at the core. But you need to be able to communicate why it is important to the business and how it is going to specifically benefit people too.

Again, this is not about filling out a canvas. It is about having a group conversation with people who want to create a shared understanding. It is also about getting people engaged so they participate in and champion the whole change process.

When someone in the team is dismissive towards the change, saying: "Oh, we all know that's John's project". You have people on the ground who can defend it and explain what it means. It is not just John's or Mary's or whoever's project anymore. It becomes the team's project.

That is how you really start building momentum and start getting people on board. You create that excitement. When you work with your teams, try to structure your team communication to create that alignment between people.

Question #3: What does the change look like?

You need to be able to talk about why the change is important, but you also need to talk about what it looks like. Right now, your team works in a certain way and behaves in a certain way. How is all that going to look a year from now? Can you paint a picture of it?

When you talk about bringing change inside your organization, inside your department, what does that look like? How are people going to talk to each other? How are people going to behave with one another? What is the expectation? Can you make that clear? Because then you have anchors that you can go back to.

I worked with a client a long time ago. This client had six people in Montreal that were working with over 200 people in Europe. We created a story around how they perceive themselves at that moment.

I then asked them: "Okay, so now what do we want to be? How do we want to act? How do we want to behave? How do we want our relationships to be with people in Europe?"

They started telling me about the past, when they were the kings. People trusted them and they had a much better place in the company. That is what they wanted: to be the kings again. How did we call that story? We decided to call it the return of the kings.

They plastered it on the wall and we started using that in our way of working together for the next six months. When something happened, we said, "Is that aligned with what we said how the kings are going to behave?" When it was not, we had to do something to fix it. But essentially what we did is we painted a picture with the team.

Question #4: How do we measure progress?

The next question is about asking people, what are we going to do to measure how we are doing? You can decide you are going to have dashboards. You can decide you are going to have meetings. That part is up to you and your team to decide.

It is about making your transformation visible in one way, shape or form. This enables you to have discussions about the outcomes of the change and your next steps.


Remember that a successful transformation starts with good communication. That is why it is vital for you need to start a dialogue and keep those discussions alive.

These questions are not about filling out a board or a canvas. They are about building a set of information that allows you to talk more intelligently to everyone in your organization. They allow you to get people on board and get them asking questions. It helps create more clarity on the change which in turn makes it easier for your core team to buy into.

If you are able to create alignment, you are then able to create support. Those people are going to work with you, support you in meetings, and explain to others what this change actually means. And best of all, you are not alone anymore in leading the change.

What are your methods to create alignment within your teams? What are you doing to spark a dialogue and keep conversations going?