The Agile Power of Questions Over Statements

Being agile means working from questions rather than statements. Intentions, our desired outcomes, are traditionally framed as statements, as declarations. 

Statements can spark doubt, fear, self-protection, cynicism, culture of excuses, risk and change aversion. In a world where change is constant, the future is intrinsically unknowable and the many of the best things happen unplanned, statements are based on assumptions. Assumptions make us more weary than inspired. 

Questions spark energy, interest, curiosity, imagination, creativity. Instead of the statement like, "We're going to double our numbers on X in Y period of time" we work from the question, "How could we double our numbers?" Or "What would a world of doubled numbers look like?"

We can sustain the same completion timestamps. Questions engage our strengths and passions. We are more focused and energized in the direction of what we want to see and make possible. Our sense of possibility is engaged. Questions have incredibly more power than statements, even though statements have traditionally been the only frame for our success and progress intentions.

Statements keep us within the world we know. Questions lead us beyond what we know, into realms of new possibilities. Even when statements are "stretch goals" they function to create risk aversion where people attempt to achieve something different through more of the same. There's nothing wrong with statements, it's just that they don't lead us beyond the knowns into new possibilities. Only questions do that. 

Questions also make our work more grounded in reality. They leverage change and uncertainty as assets rather than threats and obstacles.

There are a number of things that can change in the process of working toward any intentions, no matter how much planning we do and incentives or disincentives are at play.

  • The description, scope, timing of our intentions
  • New unknowns and concerns
  • The nature and timing of our questions
  • Our available talent and resources
  • Expectations of and requirements for success
  • Any kind of new learning, insights, ideas
  • The way our world changes because of the actions we take
  • How we define success and progress

Working from questions gives us the agility to proactively anticipate and responsively adapt to these as they occur. The more agile we are, the more successfully we arrive at the optimal possibilities we would love to see and create.