August 12, 2019
During my 30+ years at Stamats I’ve probably been involved in 500 or
so assessments of one kind or another. Whether an in-depth strategic
audit or a simple conversion about how to create a more effect marketing
department, the key to finding out what’s going on is to identify that
set of core questions that offer understanding and provide direction.
While my specific questions may change depending on the audit being
undertaken, I’ve learned that they generally fall into five broad
Let me offer a little detail.
This is the most revelatory of all the questions. Not only am I
seeking to know what’s working; I want to know if my client actually
knows. Answering this question requires that you have a clear goal in
mind and some means of measuring progress. It also means that you have a
basic understanding of cause (what you did) and effect (what impact it
There is a subtext to this question. Not only do I want to know what’s working, but I want to know why it’s working. I also want to know if the understanding gained from evaluating successful can be applied to new initiatives. In some cases, success is not fixing what’s not working but doing more of what is.
Again, not only do I want to know, but I want to know if my client
knows. I am also gauging whether or not the client is agnostic about
what they are doing. If a client is emotionally wedded to a specific
activity regardless of its effectiveness then I am likely dealing with a
client that lacks objectivity.
I love working with agnostics.
It is really hard to keep things simple. As a result, a big part of any evaluation is looking at the processes, procedures, and people to see if everything/one is in sync. People are often confused about institutional priorities and how they fit into those priorities. We know, too, that these priorities often shift. Procedures evolve. Decisions are delayed, or made over again. Conflicting ideas are often not adjudicated. The well-meaning left hand is too often out of touch with the well-meaning right hand. Anything that can be done to simplify and clarify goals and objectives will have an almost immediate and positive impact.
This is my blank slate question. I want to give people and chance to
dream a bit. Everyone has a “if only we had time”, “staff”, or “money”
list. I want to know that list.
A little pie in the sky is okay here. It is better to broaden the horizon than to put up fences.
Of course, as they answer this question I am thinking “replacement.”
In other words, what do we need to drop to add something new?
I usually phrase this question “If you left this job today, what changes would your replacement immediately make?”
I’m trying to light a fire with this question. I’m helping them act
on their best instincts. There is no reason to wait. Let’s just get on
Well, there you have it. Five questions that will help generate
insight and provide direction. I hope they serve you as well as they
have served me.