March 16, 2011 | Barb Carr

Root Cause Tip: Interviews – How to Ask Questions

Happy Wednesday, and welcome to this week’s root cause analysis tips column.

When investigating, interviews are important.  The TapRooT® 14 Step Process is detailed in the TapRooT® Book in Chapter 3.  I am not going to discuss the entire process, but want to talk briefly about how to ask questions.

In my previous life, I interviewed a lot of people, and I thought the way to get information was to ask them questions to get answers.  The problem with that is I only got answers to what I asked.  The TapRooT® 14 Step Process focuses on letting the person tell their story.  You can ask your questions when they are finished.

What I would suggest is that when you prepare for the interview, you do have a list of questions you want answered.  That will help you make sure you don’t miss anything.  However, I think you will find that by following our process and allowing the person to tell their story first, you will find most of the questions you had were already answered.  The ones that were not, you can then ask.

The first point in the interview where you should ask questions is in Step 7, “Ask Clarifying Questions.”  This is where you have the person help you understand anything you did not understand.  You should not ask too much yet.  When you ask your questions, do not ask WHY.  This word will make people defensive at worst, and make them speculate at best.  Words like HOW or WHAT are much more effective at keeping the information flowing.

When you move to Step 8, “Start at the End and Work backwards,” you are merely reiterating what they told you, but in a different direction.  You want them to form a mental picture – ask questions like what did you do/hear/feel/smell/see/think/taste?

In Step 9, “SnapChart® Review,” you can fill in any gaps including the questions you had before the interview that were not covered yet.  This is also the time to address any inconsistencies.  When we teach our courses, one of the questions I get asked is “what if the person is not telling me the truth?”  That’s a loaded question, but I talked about that last year in a blog article if you would like to take a look:

So those are some of the ways you can have your questions answered as part of our 14 Step Process.  Now even before we heard of the 14 Step method, many of us were introduced to leading questions and open-ended questions.  Leading questions can be a huge problem, so be careful.


Did Jim turn the handle?

If you ask that question, are you really trying to find out what happened or confirm what you already think?

So good luck with your interviews, and don’t forget to review Chapter 3 for a refresher.  Thanks for visiting the blog.

Root Cause Analysis
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