For this next step – I need to have the following information from my document analysis and synthesis:
- Conclusions I made as to what happened and why
- All clarifying questions that came up as a result of my analysis
This step helps to confirm any conclusions I have made and provide and clarifying information that will help provide a more accurate picture of what happened and why.
As you may have guessed – some of the questions you may want to ask will be sensitive. Especially questions about inter-personal relationships. Use your best judgement as to whether, or how, to ask.
Anything you write down during this step should be for your personal consumption only.
You can use this information in your Stakeholder Management matrix – but I would STRONGLY recommend cleaning that up if ANYONE else will be looking at it. This exercise is for you to help with your planning and your future stakeholder and project team management.
My preferred way of executing this step is through one-on-one discussions.
Preferably someplace where the interviewee is comfortable.
Also – don’t ask for more than an hour. And don’t TAKE more than an hour.
If you do not finish during that time, ask for another discussion.
I am not a huge fan of surveys for this step, though it is an option.
If I use a survey – it is more to record the results of questions I am asking ACROSS interviewees. I don’t ask the individual to fill it out.
Beyond information collection – my intent is to get to know the people I am going to be working with.
I use the following questions across all projects (beyond my questions resulting from the document analysis).
Start the conversation with these questions. Most of the people I talk to are not interested in “rehashing the past”.
- For this upcoming project – what would success look like to you? What do you want to see as a result of the project?
- What are your long-term goals? How does this project impact those goals?
- What would you like to see done differently on this project vs. prior projects?
- What do I need to consider about your / your team’s work as I plan this project? How can I make your job easier as we execute this project? (tread carefully – many people are already overwhelmed and the project is likely one more distraction to them)
- Make it clear what role you see the individual or the individual’s team playing in this project.
- If they are going to be project team members, try to get at least a rough estimate of time needed for those resources.
Often, the questions you had from your document analysis will be answered organically during the course of the discussion.
If I get through the future-facing questions, my next priority is to confirm any conclusions or assumptions I am making as a result of the document analysis.
Partially to make sure I’m accurately drawing the right conclusions, partially to show the interviewee that I have done my homework.
My final priority is clarifying any discrepancies I discovered in the historical documentation that isn’t addressed during the interview. Warning – you may be opening Pandora’s box, depending on the topic. Use your best judgement.
From here – I gather all of my information from the documents and the interviews and make my final analysis.
I’ll share how I do that in my next post.
Use Wikipedia articles as a launching point
Gail Sedorkin – Interviewing: A Guide for Journalists and Writers (affiliate link)
I Love Documents – Which documents to collect
The Benefits of Historical Methodology – Steps to analyze your documents
Step 1: Document Analysis – Analysis of individual source documents
Step 2: Synthesis or Finding Trends – Analysis across documents