Aka the ‘And when X…’ game

This post relates to 15-minute FOTO, our Creative Commons-licensed and Clean Language-inspired coaching game that’s not just for coaches – everyone gets a turn! Consistently, it’s a highlight of our workshops: it’s fun, insightful, and surprisingly practical. Above all, it’s the tool by which we generate outcomes – outcomes being the currency in which we deal.

For several weeks the 15-minute FOTO dropbox (which you can subscribe to for free) has included a beta version of the cue card (below) which adds the text “aka the And When X… game“. The facilitator’s deck has a slide with that as its title too. It’s a low effort / high impact tweak, a helpful reminder to the facilitator to introduce very briefly a little of the theory and practice of Clean Language. After exhausting my old stock of cards (I get them printed by the hundred) I had the opportunity to test the new one last week and the beta tag is removed at last!


The Clean Language questions have been carefully curated and refined over the years to minimise the coach’s natural tendency to pollute a conversation with their unasked-for assumptions and solutions. Keeping the conversation ‘clean’ maximises the chances that the client will achieve an insight of their own.

An important part of the discipline is to stay with the client’s language. One question you won’t hear in a clean conversation is this (the X and Y here are placeholders for the client’s and coach’s words respectively):

What you said X, did you mean Y?

Put words into the client’s mouth like this and there’s a high risk that whatever the client was currently holding or constructing in their head (their model, a precious and perhaps fragile thing) will be destroyed. Potentially, a huge opportunity wasted! So, if as the coach you find yourself a bit lost (ie you’re unsure what X is or how to deal with it), turn instead to the “pre-question”:

And when X…

Three things have been achieved already:

  1. You’re stopped yourself from paraphrasing (or at least delayed it)
  2. You’ve bought yourself some time while you choose what question to ask next
  3. You’ve focussed attention on something interesting

And you have plenty of choice here. If it’s important that you (in the coach role) understand what X is, then ask a clarifying question, probably one of the middle three on the card. If it’s not – and let’s not forget here that the conversation isn’t about you – you could decide to move the conversation along instead and see what happens.

There’s another use for this technique, and that’s to go back to an earlier part of the conversation. Perhaps the conversation is uncovering a virtuous circle of outcomes (not uncommon, but congratulations!) and after a certain amount of repetition you’re ready now to jump off that roundabout. It’s easy:

And when X…

Is there anything else about X?

This is for some past X, allowing the conversation to take a different branch. You’re right, the “And when X…” isn’t strictly necessary. Yes, it’s a bit redundant. But it helps! Somehow, that big leap back seems more manageable.


Workshops upcoming in 2020 – Gurugram, Malmö, Oslo (*2), London, Tel Aviv, and online

For a 20% saving, use discount code LONDON2020 for the London workshop and NORDIC2020 for Oslo and Malmö.

See also our workshops and events pages – Switzerland and Australia to be added soon.

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Announcing v7 of 15-minute FOTO

15-minute FOTO is our Clean Language-inspired coaching game, and version 7 of the facilitation deck is out of beta. On top of the usual minor improvements – fewer slides, better wording, that kind of thing – the big new thing is a new ‘Lite’ edition.


To understand why we’ve wanted to make changes, consider what each participant is doing when they play the game for the first time:

  • Familiarising themselves with the Clean Language questions (from the cue card if it’s an in-room workshop, from the screen if it’s online)
  • Taking turns in the role of client, coach, scribe, or observer, participating in or supporting what can be an intense 1-on-1 coaching conversation
  • Worrying about the game’s objective, which to generate and capture outcomes

That’s a lot! Instead of doing this all at once, the Lite edition starts with a familiarisation exercise, turns the conversation into one for the table group as a whole, and the objective matters only after everyone has had a chance to get comfortable with it all.

If, as happens in many of our workshops, you plan to do 15-minute FOTO twice, you can start with the Lite edition and do the classic edition the second time round.

Spoiler alert

Another motivation for this new version is that it enables new strings of exercises for new workshops. I’ll be announcing the first of those very soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Get the materials

Just ask here:

You’ll find a helpful Youtube video there also.

When you subscribe, you’ll be sent a link to the 15-minute FOTO Dropbox folder and you can download materials (cue card and the deck) from there. Add that folder to your own Dropbox and you’ll get all updates automatically.

Get a taste online

There are two opportunities coming soon to experience 15-minute FOTO online:

  1. One of my two sessions at the Clean Language community’s online OpenSpace event  Metaphorum 2019 on November 22nd will be on 15-minute FOTO, focussing mainly on the Lite version
  2. Comprising two 2h sessions on December 11th and 12th, my next online workshop Learning the language of outcomes will feature both editions

By the December 11th if not November 22nd, there will be a version 8 that explicitly supports online use (the classic edition already does). Consider that announced 🙂


The best place for questions about 15-minute FOTO is the #cleanlanguage channel in the Agendashift Slack.

Upcoming workshops – Berlin, Oslo, Malmö, and online

New dates for USA and UK coming soon!

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