Phase Zero


Carry out Interviews

To gather the information required in order to make an informed decision about turning the concept into a Project
  • Concept Paper
  • Interview Agenda
    1. Outline the purpose of the interview and agenda
    2. Carry out the interview
    3. Document the results
  • Notes on the interview

Start by explaining why you are there and the topics you want to cover in the agenda. If you set the stage at the beginning, the interviewee is likely to feel more comfortable and cooperative. Have an open question you can start with so that the person can feel comfortable without having to struggle to find an answer. You might use something like:

"What do you know of the Concept?" or "How will this affect you?"

The agenda should be treated as a checklist. A skilled interviewer will move around within the agenda to ensure the interviewee does not get cut off in the middle of a relevant subject. The interviewee may very well connect your first and last agenda items and want to answer them both together. As the time draws to a close, quickly scan the agenda to see if you have missed any sections. A good point to review the agenda is about 15 minutes before the discussion is scheduled to finish.

If you are less than half way through, explain that the input to this point has been invaluable but you are running out of time. Ask for another meeting, or if it would be OK to extend the time. A useful technique is to say something like

"We still have 15 minutes to go but you have provided much more useful information than I ever expected. I feel we could gain enormous benefit by continuing this discussion for another hour at a convenient time for you. Would it be possible to continue for another hour, or if we finish early with this meeting, can I reschedule another hour later this week?"

It is important to get notes written as quickly as possible after the meeting. Running four or five meetings back to back and expecting to remember details will result in lots of information being missed. If you both feel comfortable to do so, record the meeting, and do the analysis later. Having a recorder also allows you to focus on asking questions rather than taking notes. Some people may be reluctant to put things on the record but the trade off between complete honesty and completeness of information usually favours recording the discussion. You can always turn off the recorder at the end and ask if there is anything they would rather not put on the record.

If using a recorder, I usually apologise for my poor memory and request they allow me to use a recorder to speed up the process. I make it clear that after I have taken notes from the recorder that it will be erased and it is not to be used as evidence against them at some point in the future. In reality, if someone says something, and you write it down, is that any more convincing than if you have a recording?

Another point to be careful about is you as the interviewer saying "...but someone else said...". You need to balance your information gathering with your quest to resolve differences. It is sometimes a delicate balance. The point is not to get into an argument over who is right or wrong at this point of the Phase Zero review. It is to understand what people believe. If someone is unsure of a point, by all means talk about other people's points of view. Just remember while you are talking, you are learning nothing from the person. Let them do the talking.

Starting a Project White paper on the sorts of topics that should be covered in the interview.
Role of a Facilitator White paper on facilitation. Focuses specifically on JAD but is relevant to interviewing
Interviewing Techniques White paper on how to carry out an interview
Interview Tips A document that will assist develop your interview techniques

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