I often hear people asking for something, such as “How do I measure productivity?” In knowledge work, you can’t measure productivity. You can measure the throughput of a team, but you can’t measure the productivity of a person. But that doesn’t stop people from asking the question.
What you can ask is, “What would that do for you?”
That question, the “What would that do for you” question asks about the underlying problem that the questioner wants to solve. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Does the questioner want to know:
- Do I have extra people available to work on another project?
- Is everyone busy? (This is a crazy question, too. I have a management myth about the myth of 100% utilization.)
- What are people working on?
- How do I know what people are working on?
There might be more options. You can see there are many possibilities.
If you hear a question that doesn’t make too much sense to you, before you flip the Bozo Bit on the questioner, try this question: “What would that do for you?” You might be surprised by the answer.
(I was trying to think of a personal story for this. I couldn’t. I wondered why. I decided I didn’t have an interesting-enough life. I was fine with that. I hope you are too.)
If you are stuck, consider “What would that do for you?” and see what happens.
- What If I Succeed?
- What Else Could You Do?