Help Me Understand is based on the underlying (and accurate) assumption is that employees come to meetings with widely different questions around a topic or a change. It also allows the players to discover overlaps with other players’ questions and to notice the frequency with which those questions occur—something they may not have known prior to the meeting.
To shed some light on questions employees have regarding the topic/project
- In a large white space visible to all the players, write the topic of the meeting and the following words as headers across the top: “WHO?”, “WHAT?”, “WHEN?”,“WHERE?”, and “HOW?”. Give all players access to sticky notes and markers.
- Tell the players that the goal of the game is to help leadership understand and be responsive to any and all questions around the topic.
- Start with the question “WHO?” and give the players five minutes to silently write down as many questions as they can that begin with the word WHO.
- Ask the players to post all of their questions in the white space under WHO? and then ask for a couple of volunteers to cluster the questions according to topical similarity.
- Bring the largest clusters to the group’s attention—circle them if you prefer—and ask leadership to offer a response to the most common questions in the clusters and to any outlier questions that look interesting.
- Repeat this process for the remaining four header questions, each time asking leadership to respond to the questions that seem the most salient to the group.
- When the meeting closes, gather all of the questions so that leadership has the opportunity to review them later and respond to important questions that weren’t covered during the meeting.
- Another approach is to let leadership intersperse responses while the players tackle the header questions one at a time. There are benefits to both approaches.
- During the clustering part of the game, you may want to write emergent themes near each cluster to give leadership summaries of where their employees’ attention is. This is also helpful for the players to reinforce that they have shared concerns. The themes should be one- to three-word phrases summarizing the general content of the clusters.
- As the meeting leader, encourage employees to make the most of this game since it presents an unusual opportunity for them to pose real, substantive questions directly to their company leaders.
This game is an adaptation of WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE and HOW from The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making by Sam Kaner. In his book, Kamen notes that his use of this tool was inspired by an exercise called “Five W’s and H” in Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, Second Edition, by A. B. Van Gundy, Jr., p. 46.