Good questions are the key to a productive discussion. These include not only the questions you use to jump-start discussion but also the questions you use to probe for deeper analysis, ask for clarification or examples, explore implications, etc. It is helpful to think about the various kinds of questions you might ask and the cognitive skills they require to answer. Davis lists a range of question types, including:. While you might frame the entire discussion in terms of a Big Question to grapple with, it is a good general strategy to move from relatively simple, convergent questions i.
Starting with convergent questions helps discussion participants to establish a base of shared knowledge and builds student confidence; it also gives you, the instructor, the opportunity to correct factual inaccuracies or misconceptions before the discussion moves into greater complexity and abstraction. Asking a variety of types of questions can also help to model for students the ways that experts use questions to refine their analyses. For example, an instructor might move an abstract discussion to a concrete level by asking for examples or illustrations, or move a concrete discussion to a broader level by asking students to generate a generalization or implication.
When instructors are nervous that a discussion might flag, they tend to fall prey to some common questioning errors.
These include:. Asking too many questions at once: Instructors often make the mistake of asking a string of questions together, e. Do you agree with him? Is his evidence convincing? Did you like this article? Asking a question and answering it yourself: We have all had the experience of asking a question only to encounter blank stares and silence. The temptation under these circumstances is to jump in and answer your own question, if only to relieve the uncomfortable silence. Be careful not to preempt this process by jumping in too early.
Failing to probe or explore the implications of answers: One mistake instructors can make in leading a discussion is not to follow up sufficiently on student contributions. It is important not only to get students talking, but to probe them about their reasoning, ask for evidence, explore the implications of what they say, etc. Follow-up questions push students to think more deeply, to substantiate their claims, and consider the practical impact of particular perspectives. Asking unconnected questions: In the best discussions, there is a logical progression from question to question so that, ultimately, the discussion tells or reveals a story.
When you are planning your discussion questions, think about how they fit together. Ignoring or failing to build on answers: If students do not feel like their voices have weight in discussion, their motivation to participate drops. What would be some possible consequences if this plan of action were followed? Discussions tend to be most productive when they have a clear focus.
It may be helpful to write out a few questions that the discussion will address, and return to those questions periodically. While some lulls in discussion are to be expected while participants are thinking, for example the instructor must be alert to signs such as these that a discussion is breaking down Davis, :. If the discussion seems to be flagging, it can help to introduce a new question or alter the task so as to bring a fresh kind of thinking or a different group dynamic to bear.
For example, you might switch from discussing an ethical issue in the abstract to a concrete case study, or shift from large-group discussion to small group or pair-work. It is important to leave time at the end of the discussion to synthesize the central issues covered, key questions raised, etc. There are a number of ways to synthesize. Synthesizing the discussion is a critical step for linking the discussion to the original learning objectives and demonstrating progress towards meeting those objectives. While students generally enjoy discussions, they may have difficulty recognizing what they gain from participating in them — in contrast with lectures, in which students may take copious notes and have a sense of having covered clearly discernable ground.
It is helpful to tell students up front how you think the skills they gain from participating in discussion will help them in academic and future pursuits. Discussions for this class will give you the opportunity to practice that skill. As we talk, think about a conversation with a colleague in medical school and imagine how you would articulate this argument and suggest a productive fusion of both approaches to medicine. Below are some strategies that can help encourage meaningful student participation.
Plan an icebreaker early in the semester that gets students talking and interacting, preferably while doing an activity that is integral to the content material for the course. Also, create a climate in which students feel comfortable taking intellectual risks: respond to their comments respectfully, even when you correct or challenge them, and make sure perhaps by establishing clear behavioral ground rules that their peers do as well. Discussions tend to be most productive when students have already done some preparatory work for them. It can be helpful to give assignments to help students to prepare for discussion.
Preparatory assignments help students focus their reading and their thinking, thus facilitating a higher-quality discussion. Students are more likely to participate if they feel that they are recognized as individuals.
Often, students must learn how to enter meaningfully into a discussion. One way to encourage students to engage in the style of intellectual exchange you desire is to model good discussion techniques in your own behavior, using language that demonstrates, among other things:. In the interests of modeling a particular style of intellectual exchange, some instructors invite a colleague to their class and engage in a scholarly discussion or debate for the benefit of their students.
On its own, instructor modeling is not likely to affect student behavior, however. It is also important to explicitly point out the kinds of discussion skills illustrated above and to distinguish high-quality contributions e. Explicit ground rules or guidelines can help to ensure a respectful environment for discussion. The ground rules you use will depend on your class size and goals, but may include provisions such as these:.
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You can set these ground rules yourself and specify them in your syllabus, or have students help create them. Click on these links to see examples of ground rules and a template for creating student-generated ground rules. If a subset of students seems reluctant to speak up in class, you might consider ways for them to share their ideas and engage with the material in an alternative forum, such as via discussion board or e-mail. Giving students time to write down their thoughts before opening the floor to discussion can also help quiet students get more involved. So too can the use of pair-work and small-group discussions.
While some faculty are reluctant to call on quiet students for fear of embarrassing them, it should be pointed out that calling on students can also liberate them: not all students who are quiet are shy; they may simply have trouble finding a way into the discussion. Sometimes the problem is not shy students but overly domineering or aggressive students who monopolize discussion. Handling strong emotions and disagreement that arise in a discussion can be a challenge for instructors.
A certain amount of disagreement is desirable, yet if the conversation gets too heated or antagonistic, it can inhibit participation and squelch a productive exchange of ideas. When emotions are high, remind students to focus on ideas and refrain from personal comments this stipulation can be included in your ground rules as well. Also, consider in advance how you will handle sensitive discussion topics. Discussions that do so may not be comfortable for some participants yet still have the desired effect.
On the other hand, done poorly such discussions can stifle rather than stimulate engagement and learning. Also, think about whether the discussion environment in your classroom is sufficiently inclusive of all your students, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, political persuasion, religion, etc. As a prelude or addition to full-class discussion, consider giving pairs or small groups of students the task of discussing a question or problem.
Group work tends to work best when the task is clearly defined and concrete. It can facilitate group work to assign roles within the group. Assigning this last task to a quiet student can help to draw him or her out. Click on this link for more on group work. While we all want students to participate in discussions for the sheer joy of intellectual exchange, not all students may be equally motivated to jump in — at least not initially. Providing extrinsic motivations can be helpful to establish the behavioral patterns that lead, ultimately, to intrinsic motivations.
For this reason, many instructors include a participation grade as part of the reward structure of their courses. For this reason it can be helpful to define what you consider high-quality contributions to discussions and distinguish them from low-quality contributions by using a rubric for discussion that makes your expectations and grading criteria clear. How will you know if a discussion accomplished what you hoped it would? How will you assess your own performance as a discussion leader?
There are a number of ways to evaluate discussions. For example, immediately following the discussion, you might ask students to write briefly about what they learned, how their thinking changed, or how the discussion relates to other course materials. An alternative is to ask students to reflect on the quality of the discussion, answering questions such as: What kinds of contributions were and were not helpful?
The centralized project team provided training, consulting, software, and online support for the dispersed project teams. It established and took ownership of a strategy communication program. The Army team created a Web site that was accessible from around the world in both classified and unclassified versions, developed an online portal and library containing information about the SRS, wrote articles about the initiative, published a bimonthly newsletter, conducted an annual conference, led periodic conference calls with SRS leaders at each command level, and conducted scorecard training, both in person and on the Web.
This extensive communication process was critical for educating soldiers and civilian employees and gaining their support for the new strategy. A unit with responsibility for the implementation of strategy becomes a convenient focal point for ideas that percolate up through the organization. The creation of a central office for strategy execution may appear to risk reinforcing top-down decision making and inhibiting local initiative, but it does just the opposite. These emerging ideas can then be put on the agendas of quarterly and annual strategy reviews, with the best concepts being adopted and embedded in enterprise and business unit strategies.
The OSM is a facilitating organization, not a dictating one. Most of the organizations we have studied follow the path Chrysler and the Army took: The Balanced Scorecard project team incrementally and organically assumes more and more responsibilities on its own initiative. From these cases, we have learned what functions an effective OSM must perform and how an OSM must relate to other functions within the organization.
As a consequence, a few organizations we advise have recently opted to make the creation of an OSM an early and integral part of their scorecard initiatives. As the chief executive of the nonprofit that manages the supply of blood products for all of Canada except the province of Quebec, I instituted an office of strategy management to help me cope with three big challenges in implementing a strategic agenda.
First, I spend a great deal of time dealing with external demands and constituents. In addition to reporting to the board of directors of my organization, Canadian Blood Services CBS , I must also focus on the 12 Canadian provincial and territorial governments that provide its funding. So I have limited time and information with which to manage internal issues. Also, while many people believe that chief executives wield direct and easy influence, the reality is that any CEO has a difficult time influencing his or her organization. I want to exert my influence indirectly and in a way that empowers my executives and creates an environment in which they can lead and manage their parts of the organization.
My third challenge is staying informed. Information, particularly bad news, is filtered before it gets to me. Before our OSM was implemented, we were spending way too much time debating the quality of our information—obviously an unwieldy way of executing strategy and a very time-intensive way of conducting management meetings. I see the Balanced Scorecard, managed by an office of strategy management, as a way of overcoming these three barriers to success. The Balanced Scorecard empowers executives, as opposed to invading their territory and undermining their authority. It gives me performance management information that is aligned at all executive levels and appropriately validated before it comes to my attention.
Much of management is a search for the truth. The Balanced Scorecard provides me with easy access to timely, unfiltered information about our strategy implementation. Because of my urgent need to accomplish change, I followed the unconventional route of establishing an office of strategy management at the outset of our Balanced Scorecard project. I also wanted the OSM to report directly to me—that was a way to highlight the importance of this office to my strategic agenda. But the OSM needed other clearly defined linkages or relationships, too; I want change at CBS to come from within, not to be imposed from above.
I did not create the new corporate-level OSM unit lightly. The OSM has primary responsibility for most of these processes, but not all. For example, in , the OSM led the project team that developed the strategy maps and scorecards for the enterprise, our three operating divisions, and two support units—human resources and information technology. For example, the chief financial officer has primary responsibility for budgeting, with the OSM playing a coordinating role.
We launched the OSM with three full-time individuals. The OSM leader is a vice president and a member of the executive management team; her position in the organization is consistent with the importance we give this function. She leads and facilitates the integration of strategy into all our core processes. In addition, we have two individuals reporting to the OSM leader to provide day-to-day management of the office; to manage the multiple work streams and cross-functional teams; to lead and facilitate meetings; to educate people on the Balanced Scorecard and other strategy-focused practices and tools; and to perform analyses of problems, performance, and metrics.
This should be the right complement of individuals to help support the leader of the OSM, and ultimately the rest of the executive team, in undertaking our ambitious change agenda for this year. What should people designing an OSM bear in mind as they embark on the project? Some of these activities—specifically those involved in creating and managing the scorecard, aligning the organization, and setting the agenda for monthly strategy reviews—are the natural turf of an OSM.
They did not exist prior to the introduction of the Balanced Scorecard, so they can be given to a new unit without infringing on the current responsibilities of any other department. But many other activities—strategic planning, budget supervision, or HR training, for instance—are already the territory of other units. In these cases, the company needs to be explicit about the allocation of responsibilities between the OSM and other functional units.
We have identified the following basic OSM tasks:. Once the executive team has approved the objectives and measures for the subsequent year, the OSM coaches the team in selecting performance targets on the scorecard measures and identifying the strategic initiatives required to achieve them. As guardian of the scorecard, the OSM also standardizes the terminology and measurement definitions across the organization, selects and manages the scorecard reporting system, and ensures the integrity of the scorecard data.
The OSM need not be the primary data collector for the scorecard, but it should oversee the processes by which data are collected, reported, and validated. Finally, the OSM serves as the central scorecard resource, consulting with units on their scorecard development projects and conducting training and education. A company can execute its strategy well only if it aligns the strategies of its business units, support functions, and external partners with its broad enterprise strategy.
Alignment creates focus and coordination across even the most complex organizations, making it easier to identify and realize synergies. At present, few companies actively manage the process of alignment; in many cases, unit strategies have only rhetorical links with corporate strategy. The OSM oversees the process of developing scorecards and cascading them through the levels of the organization.
It defines the synergies to be created through cross-business behavior at lower organization levels and ensures that individual business unit and support unit strategies and scorecards are linked to each other and to the corporate strategy. For all their professed commitment to strategy, senior managers spend remarkably little time reviewing it. Companies that manage strategy well behave differently. Top managers usually meet once a month for four to eight hours. This meeting provides the opportunity to review performance and to make adjustments to the strategy and its execution.
Managing this meeting is a core function of the OSM. It briefs the CEO in advance about the strategic issues identified in the most recent scorecard so that the agenda can focus on strategy review and learning, rather than just a short-term financial performance review and crisis management. The OSM then monitors the meeting to determine action plans and follows up to ensure that the plans are carried out. Since the board of directors also plays an important role in reviewing and guiding strategy, the OSM helps the chief financial officer prepare the board packet and agenda for board meetings.
Typically, strategy formulation is the responsibility of the existing strategic planning unit. The unit performs external and internal competitive analysis, conducts scenario planning, organizes and runs an annual strategy meeting, and coaches the executive team on strategic options. But developing strategy should not be a onetime annual event. Those assumptions can be discussed periodically by the executive team, which can update the strategy if appropriate.
And strategy development should not be done only by senior managers. The OSM or strategic planning unit can act as a filter for new ideas that come from within the organization. The additional processes represent a natural extension of, and complement to, their traditional work. Problems arise when a scorecard project is managed by a group from outside planning such as HR, quality, or an ad hoc team. As the scorecard acquires strategic importance, conflicts over strategy development can arise between the planning unit and the scorecard team.
If this occurs, top management should quickly merge the two groups. Effective communication to employees about strategy, targets, and initiatives is vital if employees are to contribute to the strategy. Canon U.
Strategy communication, therefore, is a natural turf for an OSM. In these situations, the OSM has tended to take an editorial role, reviewing the messages to see that they communicate the strategy correctly. In cases where the corporate communications group has little knowledge of or focus on strategy, such as at Chrysler and the U.
Army, the OSM takes on primary responsibility for communicating both the scorecard and strategy to employees. In either situation, the OSM should always take the lead in crafting strategy messages delivered by the CEO, because one of the most effective communication channels is having each employee hear about strategy directly from the CEO.
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Finally, as part of its communication responsibilities, the OSM must cooperate with HR to ensure that education about the scorecard and its role is included in employee training programs. Strategic initiatives—such as a TQM program or the implementation of CRM software—are discretionary programs that help companies accomplish strategic objectives. The executive team typically identifies these initiatives as part of its annual planning process, although new initiatives may arise throughout the year.
Ideally, the entire portfolio of such initiatives should be assessed and reprioritized several times annually. The screening, selection, and management of strategic initiatives are what drive change in the company and produce results. Our experience suggests that such initiatives should be managed separately from routine operations.
Typically, they are managed by the units most closely associated with them a CRM project, for instance, is best managed by customer service or by an ad hoc team drawn from the functions or units affected. Responsibility for managing initiatives that already have a natural home should remain with the associated unit or function. The OSM intervenes only when an initiative falls behind schedule, is over budget, or is not delivering expected results.
But the OSM should manage initiatives that cross unit and functional lines—it can thus make sure that they get the resources and attention they need. In all cases, the OSM retains responsibility for monitoring the progress of strategic initiatives and reporting on them to top management. Existing functional departments retain prime responsibility for three other key processes necessary for successful strategy implementation: planning and budgeting, human resource alignment, and knowledge management.
These processes are critical for effective strategy execution, and the OSM should play a consultative and integrative role with the respective functional departments. At most corporations, the various functional departments are responsible for planning how the corporation will allocate resources over the year. The finance department oversees budgeting and the allocation of cash to the units and cross-functional initiatives; IT makes recommendations about investments in databases, infrastructure, and application programs; and HR makes plans for hiring, training, and leadership development.
For a strategy to be effective, all the functional plans must be aligned with the strategy. The budgets prepared by the finance department, for example, should reflect those established in the strategic planning process and should incorporate funding and personnel resources for cross-functional strategic initiatives. To ensure this alignment, the OSM must work closely with all these functional units. No strategy can be effective unless the people who have to carry it out are motivated and trained to do so. Motivation and training is, of course, the natural domain of HR, which typically carries out annual performance reviews and personal goal setting and manages employee incentive and competency development programs.
It is the responsibility of the OSM to ensure that HR performs these activities in a manner consistent with corporate and business unit strategic objectives. Finally, the OSM needs to ensure that knowledge management focuses on sharing the best practices most critical for the strategy.