Using Question Craft to Prepare for Conversation Forks

Member story

Workgroup 1 had helped a member prepare “Need to Learn” (N2L) and “Hard to Ask” (H2A) questions for a huge management decision. But the conversation took a fork—and the Workgroup helped him prep for the follow-up.


  • Susan Dineen
  • Pattie Epstein
  • Bryon Johnson
  • Steve Johannsen
  • Bill Mitchell
  • Derrick Van Mell

Three lessons

  • Emotional responses: The hard questions evoke tough responses.
  • Prepare for the fork: Big decision can go surprising directions.
  • Decision cycle: Crafting questions depends on knowing what stage the decision is in.

Three by Three

Emotional responses

  • Tough questions can poke someone’s pride. Be polite, be firm, be ready.
  • Bring your own conviction to the conversation. Don’t give in except for a better idea.
  • Emotions are indicators: a visceral response can mean you’re on the right track.

Prepare for the fork

  • Good conversations can take surprising turns: Yes, No, New idea. Listen hard.
  • Yes, you might need H2A questions for each fork. Or enjoy another meeting.
  • Sometimes the decision is implied by the conversation. Ask, “Have we decided X?”

Decision cycle

  • Decisions have phases, e.g., Introduction, Information, Exploration, Alternatives, Decision.
  • Big decisions take time: Gear your H2A questions to the decision phase.
  • Be on your toes: A decision might go through several phases all of a sudden.

One more thing: It’s great to have a reputation like, “Susan always asks the tough question.”

Now you’re on your own

  • The Mom Test,” a great short book about hard questions
  • The Index, our 1-screen catalog of tested management questions
  • Our Workgroups, a community that understands the power of questions

Relevant Terms

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Image: einalem from Leeds, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons