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The Question

One of the most important tools in the toolbox for implementing Service Management is “The Question”. Effective questioning can help make both a new and existing implementation more successful. Good questioning techniques take practice and knowledge like many other skills. It can take years to move questioning from a skill to a talent. But learning how to ask and answer questions is a valuable instrument.

Questions go beyond just the closed (specific answer) and open (subjective or broad answer). Questions can fall into several other categories and each should be approached in different ways:

INDUCTIVE: there are designed to aggregate information and will be used effectively in Incident Management; Problem Management and Change Management.

How do a set of Incidents correlate?

DEDUCTIVE: these are designed to break down or decompose information and will be used effectively in Problem Management and Service Level Management.

What are the elements that make up an existing service?

ABDUCTIVE: these are designed to find the best possible answer and will be used effectively in Financial Management, Portfolio Management and Service Level Management.

What should be our strategy to adjust to changes in the
marketplace?
Questions can help in many ways:
  • Gathering data and information
    How many incidents occurred yesterday?
  • Comprehending and understanding the data and information
    Did the Request for Change impact the service?
    Analyzing the data to create information
    Does the increase in response times indicate a trend?
  • Applying the information to turn it into knowledge
    If we find root cause for Problem A, will that help us fix Problem B?
  • Synthesizing knowledge into wisdom
    Can I get greater capacity by combining Service Desks?
  • Evaluating information and knowledge in order to gain wisdom through judgments
Is the Portfolio balanced to meet the needs of the customer and the business?


Used correctly, questioning is the basis for good Knowledge Management. By using various types of questioning techniques we can move from data to wisdom. Another benefit of questioning helps us avoid assumptions or to manage perceptions. Perhaps the single most powerful question we can ask in terms of Service Management is “why?”

Say a person asks you to approve a Request for Change. You should ask “why?” They may say it has low risk, no impact and little cost. That should lead to another powerful question: “Is that fact or an assumption?” By asking this question you get people to rethink their assumptions or perceptions. Perhaps it is low cost, risk and impact. But that needs to be proven through data, not through perception or opinion or assumption.

Hopefully you can see that using questions can be a strong tool. The key is to think about questions before you need to ask them. Have a quiver of questions ready at your disposal and do not be afraid to use them.

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