Most questions you will use are those journalists have used forever: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How and is the source of the information credible?
The “Who” is very important since it starts with the consumer or the customer or the patient or the client, whatever your nomenclature is; and, you may have to define the present customer and how they are acting, the customers who left and why and define the future or target customer. Too often we assume what the customer wants and what our solutions will be without the input of the customer or the definition of the expectation – the results needed. One of my earliest mentors, thanks to Citibank, was Ram Charan who writes and speaks about sound assumptions and knowing the customer better than the customer knows himself which leads to innovative solutions for the customer. I will list some of his books on my reference page on my site.
Who also refers to the competition…and you can learn a great deal from your competition. What are they doing, what is their culture, are they successfully stealing your clients, are they threatening your place in the marketplace, are they offering new products, are they offering better quality and a lower price, are they moving, are there any new competitors out there that are completely turning the industry’s environment with different technology – a question Kodak should have studied and acted upon and that newspapers are trying to deal with.
And Who also can refer to our employees, our colleagues, our vendors, etc. I have worked with organizations that realize they have no succession plan, that employees have not been developed or are lost in the status quo, afraid of change, and have lost their value in the eyes of management, or critical , early adaptor people are unhappy and are on their way out the door. I have seen managers with skills of Attila the Hun and those who are excited by crisis management. It is important to understand the talent that you have and their capacity for change.
Our vendors are also important to evaluate. Are they vendors because we like them or because they deliver? When was the last time you looked at their price and compared it and their service to others? Are we more loyal to vendors than to our drive to meet our expectations? Are our vendors able to come on the journey with us or will they be a drag on our progress? Do we have these vendors because they helped out my family or do they deliver?
Information comes from this data collection and can reveal strengths or weaknesses, threats or opportunities. It is extremely important to be honest so that you do not jump to a wrong conclusion with poor information. Also note that you will be building on your strengths and creatively finding solutions for your weaknesses.
Now on to “What?”