POWN? Communication Technique

Listing out Pros and Cons is a tried and true approach for deciding whether or not to go with an approach. However, sometimes it’s not enough. For example, a long list of cons that a group comes up with compared to a short pros list may make it seem like it’s something the group shouldn’t do. Yet, the items listed are trivial. In dealing with such situations where something more elaborate is needed, I have come up with the “POWN?” communication technique.

POWN? stands for Positives Observations Weights Negatives Question. The Positives are like the pros in the pros / cons. The Negatives are the cons. The Observations are what people perceive, but it’s not really a Positive or Negative about the item under consideration. The Weights and Question take more explaining.

Every item that is listed in a Positives or Negatives column is weighted according to an agreed upon scale. For example, it could just be high / medium / low. So, a little ‘H’, ‘M’, or ‘L’ can be next to the item. The Question signifies that any group member can request a question mark be placed next to a Positive or Negative item. This is useful so that the group can quickly list out all the Positives and Negatives without stopping to debate each item as it is listed. This brings us to the process of using this communciation tool.

The process of using the communication tool is up to you. However, one can apply it in the following way:

  1. Columns with labels are made on a white board. Positives, Negatives, Observations. Ensure enough room is between the columns for the Weights and Question marks.
  2. The group is asked for all the Positives and Negatives. They are listed. If someone challenges or wishes a deep understanding of a Positive or Negative, a question mark is placed next to the item and the group moves on. A quick question / answer is allowed. Speed is the name of the game at this point.
  3. All the items with Question marks are resolved by the group. Speed is not the point anymore. The point is understanding. If the group decides to keep an item listed under the Positive or Negative, a Weight is placed next to the item.
  4. Throughout this whole process, observations are listed under Observations. For example, “We gained a 20% increase in productivity when we applied our last experiment.”

There you have it. A slightly more elaborate pros / cons like technique that allows for deeper clarity into a situation. I hope it serves you well.

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