Friday, 6 November 2015

How to Gain Honest and Useful Feedback When Interviewing People About a Change

I am starting a type of  assignment that I really enjoy: interviewing people to uncover what is working and not working after a change has been launched.

The process required to uncover the 'truth' is both systematic and flexible: data gathering through conversation, pattern identification, hypothesis development and testing, and recommendation making. It's like building a puzzle where you need to create the pieces.

Conversations last between 30 and 60 minutes. In this time you need to stimulate interest in providing feedback, build rapport, ask questions, probe answers and take coherent notes. Time flies.

The best interviews are the ones that feel like conversations versus question and answer exchanges. They progress based on the interviewee's interests yet end with all questions being asked. 

As I was writing my interview guide, I wrote down these tips for gaining great observations, insights and actions that will make the change you are assessing more effective, embedded and valuable.

  • Create an interview guide including an opening welcome and closing thank you -- it ensures that you ask the same questions and don't forget to build rapport and show appreciation
  • Commit to anonymity of comments  opening the call by stating this pledge can increase the honesty and specificity of comments. Besides, sharing who said what is not relevant to your mandate and can be a distraction to stakeholders
  • Phrase each question in two ways, e.g. "What challenges are you facing/what can you no longer do that you could do before?"  one will better mirror the language patterns of the person you are interviewing
  • Ask interviewees if they have any questions -- it sets people at ease and builds rapport through the two-way exchange of information
  • The best final question is "What last thoughts do you have/what is one last piece of advice you have?"  often, the best information and insights are gained from this answer
  • Capture verbatim comments  they add credibility and reveal any emotions behind comments
  • Identify insights supported by verbatim comments  including the data behind your insights sets up a dialogue with the stakeholders about the validity of your conclusions 
  • Review questions with all stakeholders before the first interview  it ensures that you and all stakeholders are aligned
  • Invest 15 minutes after each call to organize your notes  this allows you to decipher your notes, compare the feedback with others and identify any emerging patterns
  • Make the interview enjoyable  they last longer and people will share with others that it was a good experience

Gaining feedback from people about a new way of working is an important element of the 'Making it Stick' phase of change. Discovering what is working, not working and how to make it better leads to improved implementation and outcomes. Effectively doing so can also build employee engagement and learning for future changes. Even better, it can become part of your culture of 'how we do things around here'.


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