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#323: Streamlining Client Feedback

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Many of my engagements involve interviews of staff, customers and suppliers. These take a long time to compile and analyze. Are there any shortcuts that other consultants use?

Interviews are a logical part of organizational diagnostics, but reduction in the level of effort in just the beginning of possible improvements. Treat this activity like any formal research project, to include a research plan with explicit objectives, clear data collection, compilation and documentation processes and a formal evaluation.

Of the many ways to improve the process to streamline the interview process, here are two tips. First, standardize the interview process with a script instead of just "having a conversation" with the interviewees. Select specific questions and areas of investigation you want and review the draft script with your sponsor. This will make the time you spend in the interviews more efficient by staying on topic.

Second, use a data collection form tied to the script to make compilation and evaluation more efficient. For example, you might include a grid for interviewee estimates of future sales or resource requirements. This will help assure that your interview does not end with important data missing and will speed up compiling of responses.

Tip: Interviews are more than just conversations. Make the process efficient with a deliberate research and data collection plan and save yourself the time you seek.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  information management 

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Rick Hubbard CMC SMP PMP says...
Posted Friday, July 2, 2010
In addition to Mark's fabulous suggestions—in some settings and contexts—facilitated workshops are quick, easy and economical. Even if one were to ignore “ramp-up” and “ramp-down” time, the cost of getting (say) 10 people in a room for an hour is less than the cost of ten, 1-hour interviews. Also, when executed properly, a facilitated workshop assures coordination & reconciliation. (Mark alludes to the recognized limitations of data reduction of multiple, serial interviews.) Another benefit I've found from leading 200+ such sessions: it's not the degree to which the consultant realizes the subjects agree which is important...it's the degree to which the subjects realize THEY disagree which is most important. Participant’s real-time, feedback-intensive discovery of their differences of opinion or expectations are enormously easier when surfaced during an appropriately facilitated workshop. Workshops also remove latency from this process. While not applicable for every situation (professional judgment is always required), properly facilitated workshops offer consultants a fabulous shortcut.
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