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Tool: Exploratory interviews

Typical use (type of issue/project)

At the beginning of a consulting relationship to help your client explore their issue of concern its underlying causes.

Ease of use rating

Used by

Yourself and your client.

Tips for effective use

It is essential to listen, give empathy, and exercise good questioning skills.

Signals of successful use

Believing you are prepared for the feedback meeting. This would entail feeling like you have clarified what kind of feedback you want to give, who you want to give it to, and what type of feedback you expect in return.

Signals of unsuccessful use

Having your client’s concerns not addressed or not discussing their issue in sufficient depth.

Links to other tools

Coaching questions (Coaching), Sponsor evaluation (Project management), RACI (Organisational design), and Forcefield analysis (Project analytics and diagnostics).


Exploratory interviews

Your goals at an exploratory interview include:

  • Establishing a strong trusted relationship with your client
  • Helping your client identify their issue and the underlying causes
  • Helping to create an action plan

To achieve these goals you need to work both your client’s agenda and your own. You need to put yourself in the client’s shoes and understand their concerns. Potential concerns the client is feeling are:

  • Do I really need help?
  • Could I ignore the problem?
  • Does this consultant understand the problem?
  • Would I work well with the consultant?
  • Is it worth the effort?

At the same time, you will probably have concerns of your own. Potential concerns you may be feeling are:

  • Why has this client sought help from me?
  • Can the client really influence the problem?
  • Who is the real client?
  • Am I being set up as a scapegoat?
  • Are the goals real and achievable?

Mare sure you ask the questions that address both your concerns as well as their likely concerns, but not in a disrespectful way.

Useful things to do at explanatory interviews:

  • Ask for the client’s view
  • Ask for specific examples
  • Don’t overreact
  • Probe without badgering
  • Keep note of reccuring themes