We’ve recently implemented a new framework*/process inside of our operations at CivicActions that has had amazing results in our organization and we’ve been sharing this with our clients, too. It’s so exciting I want to share with anyone leading teams of people to achieve something. That’s a pretty broad audience, I know, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be relevant whether you’re running an international aid organization, a two person consultancy, or a marketing communications team.

It consists of three simple questions (“What’s Working?” “What’s Not Working?” and “What’s Missing?”), which work together to create a framework for analyzing performance. They allow teams to quickly create a comprehensive review of any situation, resulting in an actionable list of strategies to improve performance of just about anything.  This framework complements SWOT analysis, which looks at internal Strengths and Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats.  We’ve found that SWOT is a good mental exercise, and that it’s helpful to distinguish between internal and external factors.  But the 3 Questions has tended to result in more actionable ideas.  The 3 Questions work brilliantly with Srcum/Agile, too, providing Product Owners clear input into the backlog.

This framework, when run as an exercise with stakeholders does a number of things concurrently:

  • builds stakeholder buy-in by creating a structured way to provide input
  • creates a balanced view – focusing on the brights spots while acknowledging what’s not working
  • asks the question we rarely ask: “what’s missing?”
  • engages the hivemind of your stakeholder team to assess a situation from many perspectives
  • implies where to shift effort (understanding this is KEY to being Agile)
  • helps illiuminate quick-wins

The process looks like this:

  1. Invite stakeholders to brainstorm each of the questions. (I think this is best done in a group, rather than via email, as ideas can inspire other ideas in the moment)
  2. Look at what “What’s Working” items you can do MORE of that would have an effect on “What’s Not Working”
  3. Look at “What’s Not Working” that you can STOP doing altogether to create capacity to do “What’s Missing”
  4. Look at how “What’s Missing” to see what might impact “What Is Working” and “What’s Not?”
  5. With this understanding, pull items from all three lists into a backlog
  6. Prioritize each item  (in a business management context, assign it to a functional area and share prioritization)
  7. Estimate effort, get commitments from team members
  8. Track progress
  9. Go change the world

Try it and let us know how this works for you.  What worked?  What didn’t?

And what’s missing?

* this is another framework shared with us by our friends at Shirlaws Coaching.