The Art of Asking Questions

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This topic contains 23 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  karen 5 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #1708

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Hope you enjoyed the webinar.

    If you have any questions please post them in the forum and I will reply.

    View the webinar recording and slides Here

    #1725

    alt
    Participant
    @alt_lv

    Question – how often you get asked the right question in the right time?

    -^. ^=-
    ~~ ~~

    #1728

    alt
    Participant
    @alt_lv

    Question: your take in cases when the deadline is closer and instead of timing the content and straight to the point are more welcomed?

    -^. ^=-
    ~~ ~~

    #1731

    Dave Mitchell
    Participant
    @dave-mitchell

    Where does the line lie between being a “Question Killer” and having questions thrown at you in a way that you react badly to (contextually, such as your example of the “morning rush” girl)? Answering questions is as much of a minefield as asking them, and it can be tough to know when you’ve crossed the boundary between, for instance, delaying someone until you’re in a better frame of mind, and coming across as having fobbed them off.

    #1735

    alt
    Participant
    @alt_lv

    Thanks for the great slides and presentation 🙂

    -^. ^=-
    ~~ ~~

    #1736

    Melissa Bingham
    Participant
    @melissa-bingham-71

    great presentation. Reminds me why i like testing, the whole investigation part is what draws me to testing field.
    i feel like i also learned a lot about answering questions as well 🙂

    I find it challenging to determine what type of questions to ask at what part of the SDLC(before development, during development..etc). Any suggestions?

    #1737

    Richard Forjoe
    Participant
    @rforjoe

    Hi Karen, great presentation thanks for sharing. I just wanted to share. In my early years I had a project where I had to work with a 3rd party development team who were very difficult. They basically didn’t want to share any knowledge about their products, to help us test it. After several attempts at trying to get information from them. I ended up having to change my approach. Some things i did are below:
    – collating my questions and documenting them, which highlighted to them and the project that lack of knowledge was a problem and also showed them how keen I was in understanding their product. I actually got challenged if I was right for the job by doing this.
    – showing them models I’d created to understand their product and welcoming them to criticise it i.e.. basically showing them the homework I had done.
    – Scheduling sessions/meetings with them with an agenda, making it clear what I wanted and getting others involved. Also praising their product in those meetings all seemed to help build a better relationship with them.
    – I also asked them to audio record the sessions/meetings, so I could replay those meetings and take notes later.
    In the end they were very supportive and even shared with me issues with their product allowing us to test around impacts of those issues.

    Q: Could you share a challenging situation where you had to change your approach in asking questions/getting information and what things you considered when deciding on a new approach?

    #1738

    Richard Forjoe
    Participant
    @rforjoe

    Q; What techniques do you use to make sense of answers from questions?

    #1740

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Question – how often you get asked the right question in the right time?

    For me, I prefer not to be questioned when I’m just arriving – especially in the morning. However as a consultant, I’ve had to get over that frustration and roll with it more – especially if I’m not onsite everyday or on a short assignment/project. I suppose how you approach me (and what our background is already) influences the dialog as well.

    #1741

    Richard Forjoe
    Participant
    @rforjoe

    Q: What do you do if you feel you have too many questions for someone? Do you have any suggestions on how to identify important questions from not so important ones?

    Great presentation again. Thank you

    #1742

    Neil
    Participant
    @neil

    I liked your point about “senior architects” – I’ve known one or two of those in my previous employment, and I agree with the strategies that you raised. Self-deprecation always works well – “Can you show me what’s happening here, I think I’ve done something stupid…” and so forth. Still, it’s irritating that there can sometimes be key pillars of a team for whom everybody needs to develop a completely different communication strategy.

    My question is, although we can train ourselves to question “difficult” people in a less abrasive manner, don’t we eventually reach a point where it’s the receiver who’s in need of more coaching than the questioner? How do you deal with a situation where you’re meeting a brick wall despite your best efforts? (How do you communicate “you’re bad at receiving information” to somebody who’s bad at receiving information…?!)

    #1743

    alt
    Participant
    @alt_lv

    One aspect i didn’t notice you mention in this presentation. What about the question(s) not being answered? from my perspective there are several aspects:
    like the first would be – i did not formulate the question in the language and structure that is easier understandable to the person which got questioned,
    the person responded partially (ether since he/she thought that that the real question was different or didn’t listen)
    or for one or another reason did not understand the question or did not want to understand or reply to it.

    For me retrying the first bit have bared the fruits. On thing is clear – getting frustrated is not an option in any way 🙂

    As for the second question i asked – i failed to mention it from the point of the person answering . From personal experience – i think i could be approached with question in poor timing but than i am expecting very specific straight question tho which the person who asks is listening to the answer and do tries to validate that he/she did really understand the reply i provided 🙂

    -^. ^=-
    ~~ ~~

    #1744

    Nithin Shenoy
    Participant
    @nithin-shenoy

    @neil One of the books that has helped me out in my career has been The Platinum Rule. There are so many different personality and communication styles. This book helps to understand some of the challenges of communicating with people that may have a style of communication that differs from your own, which can be a major source of some of the question/answer friction we see on diverse teams. By helping to identify a person’s specific communication needs, you can tailor your question or answer approach to help them process better. So I would argue that one should always develop a communication strategy tailored for each person on the team.

    If you’re on a larger team where you observe lots of communication challenges, then I also recommend Insights training. It’s basically the same content as what’s covered in The Platinum Rule, but explained through more visual “color energies” and hands on training from great instructors.

    #1761

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    For me, I prefer not to be questioned when I’m just arriving – especially in the morning. However as a consultant, I’ve had to get over that frustration and roll with it more – especially if I’m not onsite everyday or on a short assignment/project. I suppose how you approach me (and what our background is already) influences the dialog as well. – See more at: https://huddle.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/forums/topic/the-art-of-asking-questions/#sthash.2TaReYyp.dpuf

    #1762

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    @dave-mitchell
    Q: Where does the line lie between being a “Question Killer” and having questions thrown at you in a way that you react badly to (contextually, such as your example of the “morning rush” girl)? Answering questions is as much of a minefield as asking them, and it can be tough to know when you’ve crossed the boundary between, for instance, delaying someone until you’re in a better frame of mind, and coming across as having fobbed them off.

    Karen
    A: Well there are a couple of ways to prevent being a ”question killer” a) get back to the person at another time b) reply with patience when you do get back to them – don’t rush them – show them that it was a case of bad timing c) do more than answer their questions – make sure they get what they need – ask questions back such as: did that help? does that make sense?

    #1789

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Alt
    Q: Some really great tester add examples were given. You must have seen also not so great and interesting ones. Care to mention them as well? 🙂 – See more at: https://huddle.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/members/alt_lv/#sthash.3rpvNcc5.dpuf

    A: Without getting into specific examples – I can generalize that I have seen on multiple occasions people (developers and sys architects) get asked detailed questions they did not know the answer to – and in team settings gotten heated (agitated) – it is from these experiences that I have collectively realized and learned that some people have a strong need to “always know” and when they are in a position where they don’t know an answer and people are around to see them in that position – they can become frustrated, agitated or even angry. So I watch for that combination – people who need to be in the know vs people who are comfortable saying: I don’t know, good question – let’s find out. I’ve also learned when to back off asking questions – once I hit a spot where someone doesn’t know information, I realize let them tell me what they do know and let me find another way or person to get the rest of the information. I’m also human, I make mistakes – I may have learned these things but it doesn’t mean that to this day, I don’t make mistakes – communications are nuanced and it’s impossible to handle everything just right all the time.

    #1792

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Alt
    Q: Question – how often you get asked the right question in the right time?

    A: I’m not sure what you mean by this question. Can you clarify?

    #1793

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Alt
    Q: Question: your take in cases when the deadline is closer and instead of timing the content and straight to the point are more welcomed?

    A: When deadlines are close, stress and tension increase and everyone handles that tension differently. Some people when approached with questions – or for that matter anything that will take time away from them – take a breath and realize you still have your job to do and they will take a minute and help you. Other people can’t juggle your requests (for any variety of reasons) and so watch, pick up on their cues and realize when you’re not going to a) get the information you need and b) set them back time-wise by asking for things. In that situation – try to be more self-reliant. I often remind myself that I can ask anyone on the team a question but the answer I need is often in the software itself: test to learn and you can find many answers on your own.

    #1794

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Melissa Bingham
    Q: great presentation. Reminds me why i like testing, the whole investigation part is what draws me to testing field.
    i feel like i also learned a lot about answering questions as well 🙂

    I find it challenging to determine what type of questions to ask at what part of the SDLC(before development, during development..etc). Any suggestions?

    Karen
    A: Thanks.

    In the beginning of the design and development process, I try to ask big picture questions: why are we building this? what is the purpose? what are we providing for the user? And late in the process, the question shift to: how was this built? does this meet the purpose? did we provide what we set out to for the user? (This last question is addressed in the context-driven testing perspective with: The product is a solution. If the problem isn’t solved, the product doesn’t work.) But this is assuming a waterfall SDLC – in Agile the questions are more like this: so the user needs X, how are we going to build that?

    If you don’t know what questions you want to ask, have you spent time with the software? I’m rarely at a loss for what question to ask. You might imagine yourself having to explain the entire program/application to someone and find out what you don’t know – and work to eliminate areas you’re not up to speed on.

    #1798

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Richard Forjoe
    Q: What do you do if you feel you have too many questions for someone? Do you have any suggestions on how to identify important questions from not so important ones?
    Great presentation again. Thank you

    Karen
    A: Thanks.

    Bundling questions in a “nest” of questions and telling the person, I have a bundle of questions on this topic is one way to diminish the number of questions you have. You may have one bundle but 10 questions in that bundle.
    tips:
    Ask the most leading, open-ended questions you can.
    Tell the other person what you want to learn and put that out there vs. only asking to learn.

    #1799

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Richard Forjoe
    Q; What techniques do you use to make sense of answers from questions?

    Karen
    A:
    I need alone time. I need time to process. And in the quiet, I review my notes. I experiment with software to learn from what I’ve heard to see what I can see on my own. I find out what I still don’t know and then I go back for me. I expect my learning to be iterative and I’ve stopped beating myself up for that being the case.

    #1801

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Neil
    Q:
    I liked your point about “senior architects” – I’ve known one or two of those in my previous employment, and I agree with the strategies that you raised. Self-deprecation always works well – “Can you show me what’s happening here, I think I’ve done something stupid…” and so forth. Still, it’s irritating that there can sometimes be key pillars of a team for whom everybody needs to develop a completely different communication strategy.
    My question is, although we can train ourselves to question “difficult” people in a less abrasive manner, don’t we eventually reach a point where it’s the receiver who’s in need of more coaching than the questioner? How do you deal with a situation where you’re meeting a brick wall despite your best efforts? (How do you communicate “you’re bad at receiving information” to somebody who’s bad at receiving information…?!)

    Karen
    A:
    It is irritating to always have to be the self-deprecating person – I agree. Still I suppose what matters more to me is gaining the information I need. And sometimes with truly obnoxious people – they believe they take the lead even when I’m not being self-deprecating (because no one is as smart as them). In those cases, be grateful you’re working with the person and not living with them! But seriously, you have to suck it up sometimes but there are limits – once the other person can see that there is a limit to how you will be treated, they usually settle down. And those are the same folks that everyone in the team knows can be “that” way. In some cases, I just let people continue to look like what they are … and in some cases, that might not be flattering.

    Specifically:
    “.. don’t we eventually reach a point where it’s the receiver who’s in need of more coaching than the questioner? ”
    Karen: Yes but they might not be willing to receive coaching.

    “How do you deal with a situation where you’re meeting a brick wall despite your best efforts?”
    Karen: Find another resource. Let the right person know that you’ve met a brick wall and you need to work in another direction. At the same time, do what you can to melt the iceberg – because chances are they’re not going to stop working there. And if you are able to suceed in breaking down that barrier, you’ll probably end up with a very strong ally. (if you can manage to turn that situation around)

    “…to somebody who’s bad at receiving information”
    Karen: Have a one-on-one talk with them. Tell them you’ve been having a difficult time telling them somethings. Elicit their desire to help, or their desire for the best of the team and emphasize that you are trying to help. Tell them it’s not personal – you just want to be able to share.

    #1802

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Alt
    Q: One aspect i didn’t notice you mention in this presentation. What about the question(s) not being answered? from my perspective there are several aspects:
    like the first would be – i did not formulate the question in the language and structure that is easier understandable to the person which got questioned,
    the person responded partially (ether since he/she thought that that the real question was different or didn’t listen)
    or for one or another reason did not understand the question or did not want to understand or reply to it.
    For me retrying the first bit have bared the fruits. On thing is clear – getting frustrated is not an option in any way
    As for the second question i asked – i failed to mention it from the point of the person answering . From personal experience – i think i could be approached with question in poor timing but than i am expecting very specific straight question tho which the person who asks is listening to the answer and do tries to validate that he/she did really understand the reply i provided

    Karen
    A: There can be several reasons a person doesn’t respond to a question – sometimes a question gets lost in the shuffle if I’ve asked multiple questions in a row. Sometimes the person doesn’t know the answer and they skip a question. And yes, sometimes a question is asked at the wrong time and gets overlooked. In all these cases, I just try to go back and ask again.

    #1803

    karen
    Participant
    @karennjohnson

    Nithin Shenoy
    Q:@Neil One of the books that has helped me out in my career has been The Platinum Rule. There are so many different personality and communication styles. This book helps to understand some of the challenges of communicating with people that may have a style of communication that differs from your own, which can be a major source of some of the question/answer friction we see on diverse teams. By helping to identify a person’s specific communication needs, you can tailor your question or answer approach to help them process better. So I would argue that one should always develop a communication strategy tailored for each person on the team.
    If you’re on a larger team where you observe lots of communication challenges, then I also recommend Insights training. It’s basically the same content as what’s covered in The Platinum Rule, but explained through more visual “color energies” and hands on training from great instructors.

    Karen
    A: Thanks for the reference to the book, I’ll take a look.

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