It’s probably my training as an auditor and accountant, but we were always advised to take great care in the questions that we ask. Quite often in business, actions that are taken and decisions that are made are based on incorrect information. The information in itself may not be wrong, but maybe just doesn’t provide the answer to the problem. This is often because the wrong question was asked or there was generally a lack of understanding.
I recently acted as a witness in a fraud case in Newcastle Crown Court and as I was giving my evidence, it became clear to both the defense and prosecution barristers, (I was there on behalf of the prosecution) and the judge, that the information I was giving, although undoubtedly fascinating (!), was not necessarily relevant to the issue at hand. This was because the question that had been put to me by the police wasn’t what the court needed to know.
When I timidly pointed out to the court the question that should have been asked, it was clear that had the answer to this question been available, and it subsequently proved to be the case that it was, it would cast a completely different light on the subject.
Generally, I find too many people these days do not have an inquisitive mind. They generally take too many things for granted or don’t ask the right questions. Every time I am presented with a situation in business, particularly one I don’t understand, I immediately put my 5 key question strategy into operation. These questions are:-
Answers to these questions normally reveal most things about a subject, system, process or action.
This approach is very important particularly when you are trying to improve parts of a business. I know from many interesting experiences that asking someone why they do a particular role or process can sometimes lead to the removal of that very process.
What are your key questions?
As a Chartered Accountant and partner in Westbury, Howard Graham has been helping small businesses for the last 30 years. During that time, he has also set up numerous successful businesses including an award winning internet business and a restaurant as well as having an interest in a property company, a farm and a design company. He also is a regular speaker on small business issues as well as writing for the BBC, Microsoft and Imbibe magazine.