The interview is a fundamental quality tool, but frankly one we spend little time talking about best practices. The Quality Toolbox,  by Nancy Tague, only dedicates about a page to this, for example.

Here is a proposed best practice, called cognitive interviewing.

Plan the interview in advance by jotting down what answers you need and what questions you’ll need to ask to get them. Ensure that interviews are done timely – recollections degrade over time and conflations may occur.

It’s important to approach the interview in a way that the individual is willing to talk to you and share information openly and in detail. If you make the interviewee defensive, answers to your questions will be short and reluctantly provided. Here are some basic strategies to make the interviewee more likely to speak openly and honestly:
  • Ask for the interview at a time and place that’s convenient and comfortable for the interviewee
  • Focus on finding root cause, which requires teamwork – the interviewee is part of the Investigation Team
  • Use open and collaborative body language and avoid statements that imply blame!
Use open- and closed-ended questions together – open-ended to probe deeply, and closed-ended to confirm what you heard. Consider the following features of an effective interview:
  • Mental Reinstatement: Encourage the interviewee to mentally recreate the environment and people involved. Encourage recreating elements such as where things were, temperature, lighting, and feelings. Holding the interview at the gemba further reinforces recall.
  • In-Depth Reporting: Encourage the reporting of all details. This ensures the interviewee’s perception of what is relevant does not come into play – they may leave out details they think unimportant.
  • Multiple Perspectives: Ask the interviewee to recall the event from others’ points of view. How would it have appeared to other people present at the time?
  • Several Orders: Ask the interviewee to recount the timeline in different ways, like stepping backwards through the event. New perspectives might trigger recall of more information.
Approach the Interviewee Positively: Notes
  • Ask for the interview.
  • State the purpose of the interview.
  • Tell interviewee why he/she was selected.
  • Avoid statements that imply blame.
  • Focus on the need to capture knowledge
  • Answer questions about the interview.
  • Acknowledge and respond to concerns.
  • Manage negative emotions.
Apply these Four Components: Notes
  • Use mental reinstatement.
  • Report everything.
  • Change the perspective.
  • Change the order.
Apply these Two Principles: Notes
  • Witnesses need time and encouragement to recall information.
  • Retrieval cues enhance memory recall.
Demonstrate these Skills: Notes
  • Recreate the original context and had them walk you through process.
  • Tell the witness to actively generate information.
  • Adopt the witness’s perspective.
  • Listen actively, do not interrupt, and pause before asking follow-up questions.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Encourage the witness to use imagery.
  • Perform interview at the Gemba.
  • Follow sequence of the four major components.
  • Bring support materials.
  • Establish a connection with the witness.
  • Do Not tell them how they made the mistake.

What do you think of this interviewing approach? What are your best practices, tips and tricks for successful interviewing?
1 Replies
Interviews are a key technique for knowledge management and problem solving.

What is the best body of knowledge in the area.