the inside of a bathroom closet. Atop the washcloths, a phone rests

Copy the Questions, not the Answers

“Mom, have you seen my phone?”

Evelyn (16) lost her phone the other day. After looking all the usual places, and starting to get desperate, she thought really hard and retraced her steps for the whole morning.

She found her phone in the bathroom closet.

That’s a ridiculous spot, but her careful retracing process turned it up as a place to look that day.

Now whenever she loses her phone, I ask her, “Did you check the bathroom closet?” She’s like “Mom, that’s dumb.” And she’s right, it is dumb.

Yes, once it was in the bathroom closet. But checking the bathroom closet isn’t what found her phone: retracing her steps found her phone. She asked, “Where have I been since I last had my phone?”

Repeating the conclusion (the bathroom closet) isn’t useful. The question that reached that conclusion (where have I been?) is useful over and over.

“How should we organize our teams?”

As an organization grows, or as its problems change, leadership looks for new ways to structure the teams. How about the Spotify model? Or Scrum, my friend’s company uses that. Maybe we convert everyone to a single JIRA to help with coordination.

Even if the Spotify model worked for Spotify, will it work for where you are, and where you are going?

Copying someone else’s team structure is like seeking the phone in the bathroom closet every time.

Instead of “what do successful teams do?” ask “how did that team that worked well reach its way of working?”

See if you can spot a process that works repeatedly, reaching different conclusions every time.

Instead of “What is the best organizational model?” try asking “How can we work more smoothly?”

Copy the questions, not the answers.