Leadership Cues

QBQ – Going Beyond the Obvious and the “Checklist”

QBQ – Going Beyond the Obvious and the “Checklist”

QBQ – Going Beyond the Obvious and the “Checklist”

A tool that enables individuals to practice personal accountability by making better choices in the moment.” This is the definition of QBQ, or the Question Behind the Question. And John G. Miller’s book of the same name has sold more than a million copies.1 Why?

I believe the success is in the simplicity of the concept coupled with the fact that it empowers everyone to take action, from minimum wage laborers to CEOs. As with many of the most valuable tools of strategic leadership, QBQ causes us to take a pause in the ‘busyness’ of the day and ask the deeper questions. It encourages everyone to stop making excuses or waiting for some other part of the organization to give us better systems and better data. It helps us say, “The buck stops here.”

QBQ for organizational leaders encourages the leader to empower her team to ask the typical questions required of successful strategic planning, questions of mission, vision, target audience, customer segmentation and the programs and plans to implement the strategy. If your team is empowered, competent and well-trained, they should be handling these critical details.

The Leader’s role in QBQ for an implementation includes looking beyond these details to ask more probing questions like:

  • What are the top 2 or 3 things that must go right for this strategy to work?
  • If we pursue this strategy, what are we deciding not to do?
  • What specific capabilities will we need to develop in order for this plan to succeed?
  • What are we doing that’s unique? Adds value for the customer?
  • Are there other opportunities that are better?
  • Where can we go wrong?
  • Where did you get that information?
  • What else, What are we missing?

The Leader’s focus on continuously probing for additional information and keeping an attentive eye on the changing environment assists the team in numerous ways. Perhaps most importantly, by providing an environment of positive questioning, a culture where everyone on the team feels it is safe to bring up contingencies is created. And in doing so, the Leader has created a safe place for everyone in the organization to practice personal accountability and to make better choices, individually and collectively. That, simply, is QBQ.

Terri Taylor Straut

1″QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, What to Really Ask Yourself to Eliminate Blame, Complaining, and Procrastination”, John G. Miller, Penguin Group, 2001, 2012.


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