It's not enough just for the leader to think critically - team members need to do the same. To build critical thinking into the team, the leader should teach people these tools, provide them opportunities to practice them, coach them on their use, and hol
- It's great if you start using more critical thinking skills. It's even better if you can get your team to use them. There are some simple practices that you can put into place to help your team think more critically. First, teach them these tools: teach them the five why's, the seven so what's, teach them about blowing-up the business, help them understand how to to properly scope a problem. The more effectively you convey these tools to them, the more they're going to use them on a daily basis.
Second, create opportunities for them to practice these tools. Let them know if they're going out to solve a problem that you expect them to apply these methods and come back to you with deliverables reflecting the use of these tools. Third, you'll need to coach your people on how they're using these tools. Don't get too focused on the analytical answers they come to you with. Yes, those are important, but also talk to them about how they got to those answers.
Were they using the 80/20? Were they efficient in getting to those insights? Once they got those insights, did they come back up to the high road? Give them coaching on how well they're applying these critical thinking tools. And fourth, hold them accountable to using these methods. If somebody comes to you with an analysis and they haven't thought through the consequences of the recommendation, you need to send them away with the direction to go think through the consequences and come back to you when they've thought it through.
It's not always easy holding people accountable to using new tools and methods, but the more you do so the more you're going to find they're thinking critically on their own. I learned these skills the hard way. I had an engagement manager at one point who was really hard on me in terms of critical thinking skills. Every time I went off and did an analysis and I went to talk to Dave about it, he'd ask me, "Well, why did you do this analysis?" and "How did you do the analysis? "Why did you run those numbers you ran? "Why are you making this recommendation? "How does this recommendation "tie to your problem statement? "What are the consequences of this recommendation "down the road?" And if I couldn't answer those questions to his satisfaction, his direction was, "I want you to go think about this.
"Come back this afternoon when you've "thought about it some more "and then we'll talk about it." Those weren't fun conversations for me, but in a very short period of time, and I'm talking about two months of working with Dave every single day, my critical thinking skills got so much better, because he told me what I should be focusing on, not just generating the answer, but about how I was doing my work. His ability to teach me these tools, create opportunities for me to practice them, his coaching of me on these methods, and then holding me accountable to using them every single day helped me build my skills very rapidly.
So as you think about trying to get your teams to think more critically, figure out when are you going to teach them these tools? What opportunities will you create in their daily work for them to apply these methods? How are you going to remind yourself to coach them on the methods, not just focus on the answer, but coach them on their application of critical thinking skills? And how are you going to do the difficult thing of holding them accountable when they're not applying these methods? You as the leader have to focus on these things if you want to build your team's critical thinking capabilities.
And if you do focus on it, you'll find they'll build their skills quite rapidly and you're going to get to better answers much faster.
- Breaking big problems into small ones
- Defining the problem statement
- Asking focusing questions
- Finding root causes
- Using critical thinking tools
- Teaching others to think critically