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Ultimate Question for Achieving Breakthrough Results in Government


Mon Aug 17 2015

Ultimate Question for Achieving Breakthrough Results in Government-1b91762670bb115b47bb2a8675c450a179eb82f13f794bedd88020e0c2d3a85b

The demographics of the public workforce are undergoing a tectonic shift. With nearly half of the federal workforce nearing retirement, agencies face a potential mass exodus of experienced talent. The stakes are high as leaders face greater and greater workforce challenges, including shrinking budgets, increasing complexity, swelling performance gaps, and declining employee satisfaction.  So how can talent development professionals in government build massive influence, deliver breakthrough results, and increase budget investments in their programs at a time of colossal change and disruption? 

The Ultimate Question 

In my two-plus decades of serving in consulting and advisory roles, I discovered one question that puts you on the path to achieving breathtaking results… 


What problems do you have that are urgent, shared widely, and expensive if they remain unresolved? 

Managers in government are under enormous daily pressure to deliver results as fast as they can (time) as cheap as they can (cost) at the highest quality they can. The brilliance of the ultimate question is that their answers will reveal their absolute highest priorities. And those get funded because they represent the most painful issues in the agency. 

Use Question to Deliver Results 

Start by reviewing your agency’s strategic plans. This will provide the critical insights needed to not only address the pains of today but also the challenges that lie along the path towards the desired future. 

Next, fine tune your skills as an investigative reporter. Do this by simply using your listening skills to become an expert accumulator of complaints. By listening for common, repeated complaints, you can identify trends. Trends reveal the urgent and widely shared problems and challenges your managers are facing. 

Finally, determine which problems are extremely expensive because they remain unresolved. Track the results in a spreadsheet, and once a problem meets all three criteria, you now have projects that are likely to win the never ending battle for limited budget dollars and resources.


Use the Framework to Win Big 

Expert trainers and consultants know the three main sources of performance gaps are the result of gaps in infrastructure, policies and procedures, and talent. By focusing on these major themes, trainers can help agency leaders work toward effective solutions to solve the biggest challenges they face. 

Additional Help 

Can you list at least three challenges in your organization that are urgent, shared widely, and expensive? Would you like more information to help you deliver career-enhancing performance and results? 

In a TD at Work issue I co-authored with Timothy Howell titled, “Maintaining Cohesiveness in a Distributed Government Workforce,” we provide the definitive road map for using the Ultimate Question to identify and address the top ten training challenges in government.

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