Preparing for a stakeholder interview part one – setting a clear goal

You might be surprised to find out that people often turn up to interview a stakeholder with little or no preparation.

You would probably not be surprised to find out though, that when the interviewer is poorly prepared, the interview results in a conversation without a real resolution and the interviewer has missed an opportunity to get off to a clean start.

So I thought I would add a simple (but very long) guide to some ways you can prepare for an interview. This article, and a couple that follow, are based on the “GRIFT” model that I developed while training BA’s.

This article covers the first part of the model – setting a clear goal for the interview.  The next article covers the remaining letters of the term – RIFT (being clear on the roles, issues, focus and takeaways associated with the interview).

The model is simple and hopefully useful way to think through the things you need to do before turning up to interview someone.

The model is also included in my change management course (available from in Australia and NZ through Software Education. Or you can contact me directly if you want to learn how to run the course yourself).

Anyway – on to the tip for today …

Be clear on why you are doing the interview

The most important part of preparing for an interview is to be clear on what you want to achieve.

If you are clear on your goal then the rest of the interview usually falls into place, while if you are unclear then you will usually get to the end of the interview without really being clear on what happens next.

In some cases the goal is pretty clear because you know what project you are part of and you are simply clarifying the scope for the next piece of work you are doing. But in other cases you may not know much more than the time of the interview and the person you are speaking to.

One approach to setting a goal is to use the focussing question approach:

How can [I] find out [something] from [the stakeholder] so that I can [something]

To use this approach you simply fill in the blanks:

  • Who is doing the interview (you alone or you and X)?
  • What information are you trying to get from the interview?
  • Who are you interviewing?
  • What are you going to do with the information you gain?

This seems simple and yet many people go into an interview without knowing these simple facts.

Generally in the initial interview you will be trying to find out:

  • The goal of the change you are communicating or planning;
  • Your role in that initiative; and
  • The expectations the stakeholders have of you, in other words your scope and deliverables.

So your goal statement for an interview with a stakeholder called Sophie might look like this one:

How can I find out what Sophie expects of me on this project; From my interview with Sophie and by reading the project brief; So that I know who to interview before preparing my proposal.

However when you try to put this simple statement down on paper you might find that you actually want to find out quite a lot:

  • Is Sophie really the sponsor?
  • What is the project all about?
  • How long will the project take?
  • What is my role supposed to be?
  • What is the scope of the project? What is my scope?

So the idea of trying to come up with a clear goal is to give you a chance to think of these things before you do the interview.

In fact even if you were ambushed by having to do an interview at short notice (and had no idea what was going on) you might still use this format to clarify what you are doing:

  • How can I find out why Peter called me in for an interview without looking stupid …
  • From Peter and John who are both in the interview …
  • So I can avoid looking silly and still get a role on the new project.

If you do nothing else before sitting down to interview someone, working out your goal for the interview will still provide you with a pretty good chance of getting the right outcome from the interview.

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2 thoughts on “Preparing for a stakeholder interview part one – setting a clear goal

  1. Pingback: Preparing for a stakeholder interview part two – using the GRIFT model « James King

  2. Pingback: Preparing for a stakeholder interview part three – using “FOC” « James King

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