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9 Questions to Create Alignment with your Customers and Stakeholders  

Peter Stevens
Author Admin

Hi everyone, when was the last time you really spoke to a customer or stakeholder about their needs? Sure, everybody talks about getting out of the office, but how do you actually do it? Here's an interview template to make customer conversations much easier.

Personal Agility Stakeholder Interview Canvas as PNG

My ultimate goal is to have an impact. I have found the best way to do that is to create alignment between myself and my stakeholders or customers.

I use this canvas to guide my conversations with my stakeholders. It has been a game changer for me! So much, that it is now a part of Personal Agility.

The goal is to understand your stakeholder, build a rapport, and get actionable information to guide the next steps. This might be about our collaboration or a product I want to create for them.

Getting Ready

I generally plan 60 minutes for the interview, but it can be done in as little as 30 minutes if you and the other person are focused. Whether speed or depth is more important to you, depends on the context and what you are trying to achieve.

Doing the interview

Start out with an explanation of why we are here:

As you know, we are working to do <whatever it is you want to do>. Beyond that, my goal is create an effective partnership between us, so that we can work together effectively with a minimum of frictions. I want to focus on doing great things for you and your customers. To that end, I would like to understand you, your goals and your perspective.

I have found the following questions and order to be most effective at understanding the stakeholder. Sometimes I will vary the exact formulation to suit the audience, but the flow is usually the same.

  1. Stakeholder - Note and if necessary confirm the person's name and contact information. (Note I save the what really matters question for last)
  2. Main Goals or Objectives - What do you want to achieve through this project or collaboration?
  3. Challenges and Impediments - What are the main challenges to achieving your goals or desired outcome?
  4. Risks, Concerns, Fears - What concerns you about achieving your goals?
  5. Frustrations - What causes you to bang your head against the wall?
  6. Definition of Awesome - If I could snap my fingers, and all your wishes came true on this project, what would that look like?
  7. Support - How can I/we support you to make this come true?
  8. What really matters? - When push comes to shove, what is most essential? ( Generally it is better to ask this question late in the interview. Sometimes you may not ask the question directly, but rather summarize yourself).
  9. What's next? - What is the next thing that you need to do for this stakeholder (follow-up)?

Coaching questions can be helpful to elicit better, more complete answers, e.g. "Is there anything else." or "Let me read this back to you; have I understood you correctly?" Sometimes it is helpful to vary how you formulate the question, so that it resonates better with your interview partner.

I ask the questions in the numbered order. Yes, the "What really matters question" comes almost last, though it is right next to the stakeholder info on the canvas. Often people need to go through the steps of the other questions before they can answer that question.

When I am trying to build a relationship, I also answer each question to my stakeholder, so they understands me as well. This is not about deciding anything, just about understanding. So I try to avoid debate, I just make sure that I have understood the other person.

This is one of several free tools that we offer around Personal Agility. You'll find the all at https://MyPersonalAgility.org/freetools. (For the canvas, no registration is required, just download!)

Posted : 27/06/2017 9:41 am