Questions and Answers - which are more important?

If asked which are more important, questions or answers, our immediate response would probably be "answers". After all, goes the logic, anyone can ask questions, but it takes more effort to provide answers. This may well be true for much of the time, unless of course we introduce the idea of quality and also process, in which case the story starts to change.

The role of a leader is very much to ask the right questions. It's the means to intervene in the day to day operations of an organisation and maintain strategic direction. Also, the leader clearly doesn't have all the answers and so questions are always necessary.

These questions may be quite routine and fairly obvious responses to information presented (e.g. "why was this unit's gross margin lower last quarter?") or they may be more proactive (e.g. "what are we doing to keep this client happy?"). They may also be very searching, raising issues that no one else has thought of - at least up till that point. In any event, the questions need to be "valuable", because answering them can use up resources too. They also should be communicated in the right way so that the recipient can reply as effectively as possible.

Against this background, supplying answers might now appear to be easier position to be in. However, it's important to remember that the quality of the answer requires good process too. Simply getting our heads together and then agreeing a response - splitting the difference - is a weak way of responding. It doesn't work in quiz teams and it doesn't work in business either. That's a whole other story and we can consider it in another place.

Our conclusion is that, in principle, questions and answers are equally important. In each case the process of asking the question and providing the answer is the key to a good outcome.


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