Asking questions and getting answers

In the old days ya could just wack a guy and be done with it. Now everyone's feelings are involved.

That quote is from the movie Knockaround Guys. Not a great movie (it's quite bad actually) but an interesting quote from John Malkovich's character. When you look from the perspective of a business analyst, one of the most important things a business analyst can know is the answer to the question, "Why?"

  • Why is this important?
  • Why do you want this?
  • Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Some individuals take offense to this sort of questioning. They misinterpret the question to be a challenge to their statements rather than the educational exercise it really is. Understanding "why" will basically allow you to determine whether you are going in the right direction. How does this requirement align with what the project is trying to accomplish?

To avoid receiving a chilly response to your "why" questions, you can do two things:

  • Prep your client as to the purpose of the "why" questions. Explain that understanding the rationale will allow you grasp the essence of their desires.
  • Word your questions to be non-threatening (e.g., cater for people's feelings.). As suggested in this post from Tyner Blain, use "what" and "how" questions to answer the "why" questions.

Ultimately, you are trying to foster a strong working relationship with your client. Understanding how to question them and get the answers you need in an open environment is paramount.

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