Quality Improvement at MDH

Focused Conversation Method

ImgThe focused conversation model was developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Ontario [Attn: Non-MDH link], as a way to lead people through a phased reflection on almost any kind of issue, by enabling individuals and groups to process their thoughts in an orderly manner.

A focused conversation is an excellent way to provide structure to conversations that might otherwise travel all over the map, saving time and energy and minimizing potential power plays or hidden agendas. It is versatile, and works as well with a group of strangers as it does with colleagues who have known each other for many years. Because the focused conversation applies an inclusive structure to the listening process, it also promotes shared understanding.

How to Conduct a Focused Conversation

1. Ask Objective Questions

Focus on data, facts, and the ‘truths’ that everyone can agree on, such as what was seen, heard, touched, etc. Examples:

  • What data do we have?
  • What did you see?
  • What was said?

2. Ask for Reflection

Focus on reactions, mods, memories, associations. Examples:

  • What does it remind you of?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • When did you feel surprised? Delighted? Disappointed?
  • How would your stakeholders react?

3. Ask for Interpretation

Focus on meaning, purpose, significance, implications. Examples:

  • What is this all about?
  • What does this mean for us?
  • How will this affect our work?
  • Why is this important?
  • What can we learn from this?

4. Ask for Decisions

Focus on resolution, agreement, and possible new directions or actions. Examples:

  • What is our response?
  • What should we decide?
  • What do we need to do differently?
  • What are the next steps?

More Information

Sources