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During Process Walks, sometimes I find myself asking lots of questions to pull more information from the interviewee to understand the details of each step. How do I keep the interviewee from feeling defensive?

Good for you! Delivery is key. Remember, take the approach of a student. Ask respectfully and acknowledge their expertise! Say Thanks! Positive words or encouraging comments between questions, like, “Thanks that was very helpful.” “Great, that helps me understand.” Or preface a question with, “So I can understand the process better, what about…?” “I’m working hard to learn and understand this piece…” Those simple comments can help minimize defensiveness and show the interviewees that you are asking respectfully with good intention.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.